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Montreal Passport Lines Are So Bad The Police Showed Up — Meanwhile Politicians Bickered

"It's insane to see people camping to get a passport."

MTL Blog, Staff Writer
​The exterior sign of the Complexe Guy-Favreau that houses a Passport Canada office in downtown Montreal.

The exterior sign of the Complexe Guy-Favreau that houses a Passport Canada office in downtown Montreal.

Montreal police were called to a downtown passport office on Tuesday morning to keep the peace among the mass of passport seekers outside. Around 8:20 a.m. officers were alerted to a high volume of people at the Complexe Guy-Favreau.

"Building security called police because some people got agitated. Police presence was for prevention purposes only," SPVM spokesperson Raphael Bergeron told MTL Blog.

"People were calm and cooperative when officers arrived, despite the long period of waiting for their passports."

For weeks, Montrealers have been lining up for hours outside of Service Canada offices in the hopes of getting a passport. Over the weekend, hundreds of travellers even camped outside overnight to get first dibs on a Monday morning appointment.

Unprecedented demand for passports since the loosening of pandemic travel restrictions has overwhelmed Service Canada offices in Quebec and across the country. The federal government reports that around 85% of those lining up are applying for a new passport.

Under normal circumstances, it would take up to two weeks for processing plus mail time if you applied in-person at a passport site, or nine weeks plus mail time if you applied by mail or at a Service Canada Centre. Since May, those processing delays have skyrocketed.

Passport applicants are now being asked to wait until a day or two before their booked flights to show up at a service counter in the hopes that Passport Canada can produce their travel document the same day.

"The situation experienced by Quebecers in passport offices is deplorable," tweeted Sonia LeBel, Quebec's minister responsible for Canadian relations, on Tuesday.

"It's insane to see people camping to get a passport. We invite the federal government to quickly find a solution in order to process requests more adequately."

The minister who oversees the federal passport program responded to the comment from Parliament Hill.

"I heard what was said, and my department is trying to see how we can improve this situation," said Minister Karina Gould.

"There are always technical issues, but we have people who are working to fix problems and reassess the process to ensure that people can get their documents more quickly."

Meanwhile, hundreds of Montrealers are expected to continue staking out spots at Passport Canada offices in the coming days. Montreal police say they'll be monitoring the situation but aren't anticipating taking more action to disperse crowds unless they're called.

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