March 29, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

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Passport Crisis | More than half of employees by 2022

Between 2018 and 2021, Ottawa has significantly reduced the number of staff assigned to processing passport applications. The result: By early 2022, they were almost half there to respond to the many requests from Canadians who want to travel after major restrictions are lifted. For passports, foreign travel.

According to the data obtained by Pres under Access to Information Act At Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 1,512 officers were responsible for responding to passport applications at the beginning of 2018. There were only 893 in 2021, a figure that rose to 1,161 that year. ‘Next year

This significant drop in staff has significantly impacted Passport Canada’s ability to process the flood of applications in the summer of 2022, says Yvon Barrière of Quebec, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). “We had 40 to 50% less staff,” he says.

Where did all these employees go? Large numbers were assigned to other services at the height of the pandemic, when restrictions severely limited foreign travel. Many Passport Canada officials, particularly those working on processing applications for Canadian Emergency Benefits (CERB), at the time, were forced to shut down many sectors of economic activity due to COVID-19.

Whenever there is a new citizen assistance scheme, the government tends to get staff from the Revenue Agency, Immigration and Passport.

Yvon Barrière is Quebec regional executive vice-president at the Public Service Alliance of Canada

A year and a half late

But Mr. According to Barriere, staffing cuts are not the only reason for the passport crisis in the summer of 2022. A significant delay in processing applications at the peak of the epidemic has also worsened the situation.

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“Passport applications, when people cannot travel, they can wait. Put them away, the managers said,” said Mr. Barrier says this has caused delays in processing requests of up to a year and a half, he estimates.

“All the ingredients were there for what we know [à l’été 2022] “, he argues. At a time when foreign travel was less restricted, staff found themselves dealing with a significant increase in requests for new passports or renewals. All this with significant cumulative delays over the previous two years.

“They didn’t see the crisis coming,” argues Yvon Barrière. However, he believes this is entirely to be expected. “If the managers had planned it, we wouldn’t have the lineups we know,” he says.

When Ottawa began hiring staff amid a flood of requests, the situation did not improve, at least in the short term. “Employees had to be trained and we often hired the best to train them. They don’t have time to process applications. »

The union representative also rejects the argument that the delay in processing passport applications could have been caused by a large number of employees working from home over the past three years.

According to the data obtained by PresIn 2020, 2021 and 2022 at least 80% of staff processing passport applications worked remotely. “People have got quotas, they have to process a certain number of applications every day at home or in the office,” explains Yvon Barrière.

“They had a lesson”

Most of the staff who were on loan to other services have been sent back, he believes, making up for the backlog in processing applications.

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“They had their lesson. They are taking back control. We must not experience a new crisis,” he concludes.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to questions Pres, invites us to write to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). In response to our email, ESDC indicated that it was unable to respond to our queries on Friday.

In collaboration with William Leclerc, Pres

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  • 5.1 million
    Number of passports issued by Ottawa is 1R April 2017 and March 31, 2018. During this period, 1,512 employees were assigned to process claims.

    Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

  • 1161
    Number of people appointed to process passport applications by the end of 2022. 1.5 million passports issued by 2022.

    Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada