Despite progress to improve passport delays, minister unsure when issue could be resolved

The minister responsible for overseeing Service Canada’s ability to issue passports to Canadians says improvements are being made to resolve processing delays but was unable to clarify when the issue could be resolved.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said on Monday that Ottawa is working to hire more staff and establish more windows when people can go register for or renew their passport to alleviate pressure points.

“There are number of things we can do to improve the process and we are working on that internally to make sure that it’s working efficiently and effectively,” she said, speaking to reporters.

“Let’s also recall that over the last two years, there weren’t a lot of passports that were being applied for, and so part of it is making sure that we’re back up at full capacity.”

The minister noted that 85 per cent of the applications are for brand new passports, which requires more time and resources.

Gould wasn’t able to provide a timeline as to when Canadians could expect to move through the process with more ease, stating only that it’s “going to take time.”

“Believe me, I wish it was sooner rather than later. I completely understand the frustration that Canadians are facing right now,” she said.

“I can’t, unfortunately, give you that date. What I can give you is assurance that this is my number one priority. [I’m] losing a lot of sleep over it.”

Canadians have reported waiting hours outside passport offices as post-pandemic travel demand has ramped up. It’s even spurred some to hire a “freelance line stander” to weather the wait.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, Service Canada says it issued 363,000 passports. But now that Canada and other countries have eased pandemic travel restrictions, the period of April 2021 to March 2022 saw more than 1,273,000 passports issued. April 2022 alone saw 261,000 passport applications, compared to just 69,000 the same time last year.

Gould said while the government anticipated an uptick in applications as travel restrictions loosened and people felt more comfortable leaving the country, they didn’t anticipate the current surge.

Service Canada has already hired 600 new employees this year and is aiming to hire up to 600 more to keep up with the demand.

The government has also begun to publish approximate wait times to help people prepare for their visits and has made changes to the phone system to ensure calls aren’t dropped.

With a file from CTV News’ Tom Yun.

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