A whole night in the passport office

One night, The press Put yourself in the shoes of travelers who, with less than 48 working hours to go before leaving the country, decide to take drastic action to get their passport renewed

Posted at 5:00 am

William Theriault

William Theriault
The press

We can observe many tired faces and a few resigned smiles around the Saint-Laurent passport office for several weeks. Here, hundreds of people often wait more than 40 hours in their camp chair, under a blanket or raincoat, coffee or umbrella in hand, hoping to get their passport.

Nearly 100 people were waiting near the Service Canada office when the The pressThursday evening around 9 p.m. A unique mixture of irritation and improvised camaraderie could already be perceived.

Note that this office is only open from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays. Everyone was therefore willing to spend the night there, pursuing different strategies. Most travelers dozed off in their camp chairs for a few hours, while some had organized a relay with loved ones to pass the wait. Others had brought a tent to protect themselves from the weather or went to sleep in their car while their spouse kept their place in line.

A mother of three sitting next to our reporter even got out of her chair between midnight and 6am and paid a young man who was waiting for her.

On site, the scene is almost surreal: a crowd of people, whose stress and fatigue can be clearly felt, installed in a makeshift camp. All without toilets or wells to drink water. People not only wait, but also at their own expense: food on site and working days are missing, sometimes without payment. “The passport is not a privilege, it is a right,” lamented Axel Lellouche, one of them.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Axel Lellouche has been waiting patiently for his son’s passport since Wednesday.

The overwhelming majority of people there had taken steps in the past few months, only to be told they had to go to a Service Canada office no later than 48 hours before they could leave.

“I find it ridiculous. “It is inconceivable that the organization is so bad. “A real banana republic. “They treat us like animals. Those kinds of answers echoed throughout the night.

Very simple: Everyone criticizes the federal government for its lack of preparation and its inability to implement a solution. There is a general misunderstanding in the way requests are handled, although the problem was “foreseeable”.

When did the people at the front of the line arrive, on Thursday night? Wednesday, at different times in the afternoon or evening, they answer. These people finally received their passports on Friday. Overall, the on-site steps can be spread over three days, with Service Canada asking you to appear at least 48 hours before departure.

Around midnight, sleep took over the small ecosystem of the passport office. By early morning most travelers were asleep, some were typing on their phones, others were talking quietly. Just before sunrise, around 5 a.m., the line practically doubled. It was a few hundred meters long and spread out in front of a dozen neighboring shops.

Chaotic awakening

By 7 a.m. on Friday morning, few were still asleep. The awakening resulted in a mixture of confusion, fear, and frustration.

Barely four or five employees outside. To ask a question you have to wait in another queue without any hint. Fifty people whose names had been put on a priority list around 2 p.m. Thursday as the storms that battered Montreal approached also returned to the front of the line. In total, more than 250 travelers were present on Friday morning.

“We are overwhelmed,” announced an employee at around 10 a.m. at the entrance to the office. “It was 48 hours, but we can’t serve everyone. So now it’s only 24 hours [avant le départ du Canada] today. »


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Virginie Cleroux

Virginie Cléroux, who arrived around 8pm on Thursday evening, was due to leave for Florida on Monday. She began the process in April but was forced by Service Canada to renew her three children’s passports a few days before she left. Despite her patience, she could not pass.

“I don’t know how you can get a passport now. Like several dozen people behind her, she had to postpone her trip.

Learn more

  • 20%
    Percentage of expected applicants who have taken the necessary steps to renew their official documents during the pandemic

    Source: Employment and Social Development Canada

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