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Canada’s passport, airport and immigration delays are improving: task force

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The federal task force created to reduce service delays says that after spending the summer dealing with the significant lineups and wait times Canadians face at airports, passport offices and those who are waiting for immigration applications to be processed, the situation is starting to improve, but “we are not out of the woods yet.

“There is a lot of work to be done and in some cases we are falling short of the pre-pandemic level of service that Canadians expect and deserve,” said the task force co-chair, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, at a press conference. conference on Monday.

Providing an update on the progress made so far, the government touted improvements including:

  • hire more than 700 new employees for passport offices;
  • reduce call center wait times for passports;
  • introduce more passport “collection and sorting services”;
  • hiring 1,800 additional security screening officers at airports;
  • reduce flight delays, cancellations and baggage problems; and
  • the hiring of 1,250 new employees to tackle the backlog and speed up the processing of immigration applications.

Miller acknowledged that the situation experienced by Canadians this spring and early summer “should never have happened” and that in some areas the federal Liberals have been “slow to respond.”

Assessing what has caused this crisis in service delivery, the co-chair of the task force, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien, said on Monday that it was the result of a demand that far exceeds the federal government’s ability to respond. This is a situation that other countries are also experiencing, she added.

Ien cited an “unprecedented” increase in the number of Canadians traveling; the impact of having to adapt to international travel restrictions and border closures; and reduced government-wide treatment capacity during the pandemic as aggravating factors. However, Miller said the government is not looking to blame others — whether it’s the airlines or other unprecedented global events like the war in Ukraine that are weighing on demands for government services — because “much of the responsibility rested on our shoulders”.

“There is a lot of work to do, and look inside and see how we can put this machinery of government back in place and move to a service standard. And then looking long-term at what we need to do to fix the problem, whether it’s old systems that haven’t been updated in decades, whether it’s more people” , Miller said.

He added that these approaches were taken over the summer to speed up fixes so people get their passports faster, but questioned whether this was the most effective way to provide a more systemic solution and to break down the “silos” of government.

Monday’s press conference was held alongside Cabinet Ministers who have responsibility for tackling long queues at airports as well as passport and immigration offices: the Minister of Family, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, who is responsible for Service Canada; Transport Minister Omar Alghabra; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser; and Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino.

In turn, pointing to statistics intended to indicate how the situation is developing, ministers said they would continue to work to further improve Canadians’ access to these key government services.

“We know the wait is too long, and in many cases we need to address this and deliver the standard of service that our customers – future students, workers, permanent residents and citizens of Canada – have come to expect, said the Immigration Department. minister about the backlog in these files, promising additional measures to help in the coming months.

Asked when Canadians can expect passport processing times to return to pre-pandemic levels, Gould said those who planned to travel within 45 days and who go to a passport office will receive their passport within 10 days, barring specific security or other complications. She said the challenges remain more with the mail-in application system, often because those submissions don’t have a specific upcoming travel date.

“We are making significant progress and hope to return to more normal service standards this fall,” Gould said.

In late June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of this task force – a committee of 10 cabinet ministers – recognizing the “unacceptable” wait times and delays Canadians are experiencing with passport applications. and immigration.

The Prime Minister tasked the group with reviewing service delivery, identifying gaps and areas for improvement, and making recommendations to improve the quality and efficiency of government services.

The task force has met 10 times since its inception and says it has made changes along the way, but will also make recommendations to the Prime Minister through the Cabinet.

“That’s inevitably what will result in all kinds of improvements Canadians deserve,” Miller said.