After recognizing as “unacceptable” the situation in the Montreal offices of Service Canada regarding passports this week, Minister Karina Gould says she has noticed “progress” on the ground, particularly at the centers in Saint-Laurent and Laval.
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At these two centers, there were between 250 and 300 people in the morning, and each of these people had been met by staff displaced to manage the crowds that still gather at the service centers in the region.
Ottawa has moved a dozen of these agents per office and they will remain on site until midnight, said Ms. Gould.
The Guy-Favreau center was still heavily congested on Wednesday, and the crowd continued to increase in volume at the start of the afternoon on Thursday. The number of customers still amounted to more than 500 in the morning.
“About 70% of these people who arrived at Guy-Favreau, according to the [dernières] statistics that I received from my department, are people with an urgent trip,” said the minister.
However, we are far from the 1,500 to 2,000 people in total who were queuing at these three centers, assured Ms. Gould.
If the customers of the centers of Saint-Laurent and Laval have in theory all received an appointment ticket, the minister could not however guarantee that everyone will be able to get their hands on their passport in time for their flight.
“It depends if the trip is in an hour or two hours, and it’s very difficult, I have to be [réaliste] in this situation,” she said in an interview with reporters in parliament on Thursday.
Ms. Gould also pointed out that some customers have tried to show up at passport offices with fake tickets.
The records management strategy has already been rolled out to Toronto area offices and will be rolled out Monday to Vancouver area offices.
Normally, passports are printed at the office where the applicant does business.
However, since “passport offices are not built to have hundreds of urgent applications every day”, Ottawa decided to run the printers at full speed at its offices in Gatineau and Mississauga, near Toronto, since these centers can produce a larger volume.
Thus, customers whose flight is in 12 hours or more will most likely receive a passport that will have been printed in one of the two centers.
The printers in the Montreal centers would currently only be used to print the passports of customers whose flight is scheduled in less than 12 hours.
This way of doing things will remove a little “pressure” from the system, believes Karina Gould.
It has now been several days since the government called on officials from other federal departments and agencies to come and lend a hand to Service Canada employees.
Minister Gould confirmed that she expects to receive assistance from approximately 200 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees based in Quebec.
Ms. Gould also said that her department had “identified” about 70 Statistics Canada employees who would be willing to help out.
These figures do not include the 1,200 people that Ottawa wants to hire on an urgent basis, half of whom are already taking the necessary training.