Passport lineups at some rural Service Canada locations in Eastern Ontario
For weeks, thousands of Canadians have been lining up, often overnight, to apply for passports at Service Canada offices.
But in some smaller places in Eastern Ontario, the lines are a trickle, with some people driving for hours to enjoy.
Outside a Service Canada location in Montreal, a line circles the street, with people bringing lawn chairs and sleeping bags for camping.
In Gatineau, Quebec. Thursday there was a smaller queue but still a long wait.
But at the Service Canada office in Cornwall, there was no line.
“I walked in there and said, ‘Where is everyone? There’s nobody!” said Louisa Owusu-Ansah, who drove from Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que.
“There is a long queue in Quebec and Ottawa, so it’s the closest I could come and luckily when I arrived there was no one waiting for me,” he said. she adds.
She said a friend advised her to go to a small town to renew her passport, having tried to file documents in Ottawa and Quebec City before.
“There were so many people and I had to go somewhere so I left and came back the next day at dawn, to wait,” Owusu-Ansah said.
Another woman said she also drove 45 minutes from Quebec to drop off her papers.
Other rural communities in eastern Ontario were also quiet Thursday, such as Pembroke and Brockville.
In three hours at the Brockville location, only two people told CTV News they were there for passports.
Woman drove from Winchester to avoid long lines in Ottawa; the other filed paperwork in April and was seeking an update. She leaves the country and needs it on June 29.
Back in Gatineau, a man came by car from Montreal to wait for hours and hours. He also sent his papers weeks ago and wondered where his passport was.
“They have limited capacity and they are full,” he said. “You can feel the frustration people have in this situation.”
He’s supposed to go on a trip on Monday. Now I don’t know if that will happen.
“People leaving Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they’re a higher priority than us. I’m very, very sad about that. Very, very frustrating,” he added.
Although rural locations offer faster service to renew or apply for a passport, Service Canada advises people that the estimated wait time to receive it is still 9-11 weeks.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s because of the time (of the day), but I still think it’s worth driving in small towns,” Owusu-Ansah said. “There is no waiting period.”
On Thursday, the minister responsible for passport services asked Service Canada to do more in major urban centers where passport processing delays are greatest.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said the agency was implementing new triage measures to provide a more “intensive and client-specific” approach.
“In the early morning hours, an increasing number of managers and executives attend and speak directly with customers to sort out queues at specialized passport sites,” the statement said.
With files from CTVNews.ca Producer Sarah Turnbull