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Minister calls Canada's passport renewal backlog 'totally unacceptable,' pushes for summer solution

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Ottawa is aiming to clear up the chaotic scenes that have become commonplace at passport offices in cities across Canada in recent months.

The vow to clear the backlog comes from Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, who said this week in Vancouver that the current situation to renew passports in Canada is “totally unacceptable” and should be fixed by the end of the summer.

“Where we want to be is people getting their passports well ahead of time when they apply, and that’s what we’re working towards in the next four to six weeks,” she said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gould said the majority of people, about 80 per cent, applied for passports in-person, and 20 per cent applied by mail. Since the start of this year, that ratio has flipped, and the mail system is not sufficiently staffed to deal with it. It is likely the result of many people letting their passports expire over the pandemic, leading to a high number of people applying for their renewal now.

Canadian passport (Getty Images)
Canadian passport (Getty Images)

Service Canada has hired 600 additional passport officers this year, though that hasn’t proved enough to remedy the current situation.

Training for these positions takes up to 15 weeks and 500 of those new hires are expected to complete their training in the next month, which is why Gould is optimistic the situation should clear up by the end of summer.

Those travelling within 48 hours will be prioritized for in-person service at the passport office.

Canadians have submitted more than 808,000 passport applications between April and the end of June. That is 166,000 more applications than the federal government agency received in the same period in 2019.

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