A crisis is raging in several passport offices across the country, especially in Quebec. Travelers are forced to wait for hours without obtaining this essential document for their trip.

François Gamache must leave Thursday for a trip of 3 weeks in France, in particular to bury his father-in-law. Like thousands of Canadians, he needed to renew his passport.


On Saturday, he contacted a Transport Canada officer for instructions on how to obtain his passport. She told me that in Montreal it was almost impossible for my file to be processed in a weekhe says.

The agent then suggests that he go to Chicoutimi, which he decides to do on Sunday evening.

Arrived at the Service Canada office on Monday morning at 6 a.m., he quickly realized that the situation was wrong. He is told that passports for travelers leaving the country within 48 hours will be given priority.

Five days from his international trip, he still decides to stay, with the hope that his turn will come.

30 hours later

After waiting in vain for several hours in the waiting room, François goes to the hotel in the evening to take a short nap.

He stayed there only very briefly in order to be back in his waiting seat in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

Once again a difficult wait, in an unwelcoming environment, according to François Gamache.

Many people from outside the region line up in front of the Service Canada office in Chicoutimi to get their passport.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Catherine Paradis

In Chicoutimi we really made ourselves feel bad because we came from Montreal, but at the same time, I was told that in Montreal they would not process my file. At the same time I am a Canadian citizen, I pay taxes, so do I have to feel bad about moving?

There were seniors who spent 48 hours there, in Chicoutimi. It was like 5 degrees overnight, it was really cold. »

A quote from Francois Gamache

As the wait for François Gamache continues on Tuesday, an agent on site makes an announcement to all: even tomorrow, 24 hours, we will not be able to treat them, we advise you [d’annuler] your trip.

People were in tears. It was panicsays François Gamache.

It was at this time that one of his clients with whom he was in remote communication suggested that he go to Fredericton, New Brunswick, for his passport application. [Il] told me that he had heard that in New Brunswick it was treated.

After 30 hours of waiting in vain in Chicoutimi, François Gamache decides to get back behind the wheel to try his luck in the neighboring province.


After a night’s sleep in Témiscouata to regain strength, François Gamache arrives at the passport office in Fredericton on Wednesday morning.

The waiting room is almost empty.

It’s like we’re in another country […] The security guards were super friendlyhe said. It’s like exceptional customer service versus being treated like cattle in Chicoutimi.

After a wait of 2 to 3 hours, his passport is given to him.

I was really exhausted and I was even very emotionalsays François Gamache. I fought so hard to get it […] It is sure that my trip is saved.

If there are too many Passport Canada agents right now in Fredericton and not enough in Montreal, there may be some logic in people having access to that. »

A quote from Francois Gamache

François Gamache estimates that he spent nearly $1,000 on hotel, food and gasoline during this trip.

As he owns a business, he was able to telecommute with his laptop during this whole misadventure. But not everyone is so luckyhe says.

A national political crisis

François Gamache is far from the only one to have recently been confronted with the bureaucratic maze in order to obtain his passport.

With health restrictions lifted and the summer season underway, there are large crowds at Service Canada offices.

Last week, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould said that 1,200 employees had been hired or were in the process of being hired to manage the flood of requests that is flooding Service Canada offices.

She says there will be no compensation for travelers forced to cancel their plans.

Karina Gould Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, responsible for the passport file.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang

There was also talk of borrowing some 200 employees from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

François Gamache is very critical of this management of Service Canada, saying that it was a predictable situation.

It is not true that all requests are answered in 24 hours […] In Chicoutimi, there are plenty [de demandes] which have not been processed and [les gens] had to cancel their triphe said. The Trudeau government is well aware that Service Canada has been going all out for years. Basically, it was logical that this crisis was going to happen, it was foreseeable.

In Montreal, a queue at one of the Canada Service Centers is supervised by police officers. Access to the media has been restricted: security agents have pleaded that special authorization is required to set foot on federal territory.

With information from Louis-Philippe LeBlanc


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