Angered by the endless queues in the metropolis, many Greater Montreal citizens are turning to Service Canada’s office in Chicoutimi, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to renew their passports. But here, too, we are struggling to meet demand.
Posted at 5:00 am
And here, too, proof of an imminent departure is required. “You have to show us you’re losing money [si vous ne pouvez pas partir]Otherwise we won’t be able to serve you today,” says Denis Bélanger, a Service Canada worker, to the still dormant line on Racine East Street.
Arrival before the opening of the premises, at 8:30 a.m., The press could see that almost a hundred people were already waiting, some since Sunday evening, hoping to receive the precious document. People sitting in camp chairs with blankets over their legs appear to wake up when Service Canada workers approach.
Most of the people we met preferred to travel about five hours from Montreal or Laval rather than chafing at the endless lines that sometimes even erupt into conflicts.
“I called my MP and she told me to come here, it’s my only chance,” says Andrew Hyacinthe, who had just arrived from Laval with his brother and mother-in-law. The young man doesn’t know yet, but he’ll probably have to stay in Chicoutimi for several days to get his passport there because the Service Canada office can’t keep up.
Not faster in the region
During the day, only requests from travelers within 24 hours of departure are processed there. The others will be moved to another queue for those leaving within 48 hours, where only fewer people’s requests can be processed on the same day.
Those whose departure exceeds this limit will have to wait, as in the case of Andrew Hyacinthe, who plans to fly to the Dominican Republic on July 2nd.
Warned of the delays by Service Canada staff, once the premises open many of them will go about their business and likely return the next day.
People don’t think about that, they think about Guy-Favreau [à Montréal], they have 20 counters with 20 agents, while here we have four counters with four agents. So all in all, we’re no better off here.
Denis Bélanger, Service Canada employee
Denis Bélanger has worked for Passport Canada for 20 years. He remembers two similar crises. In 2007, the United States began requiring a passport to cross borders instead of a simple birth certificate: a wave of citizens had swept in to claim the valuable document.
In July 2013, Service Canada offices were again inundated with Canadians who had waited months to renew their documents to try the novelty of a 10-year passport.
“This is not human”
After looking at wait times at the Service Canada Center in Laval, Alain Lavoie, a resident of Île Jésus, didn’t even try his luck. He immediately took the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean road without asking any questions.
It’s impossible, it’s crazy, we can’t even hope. On Sunday there were 200 people who had slept there since Saturday.
Alain Lavoie, resident of Laval
He arrived in Chicoutimi almost 24 hours ago, and the man was finally reassigned to another row on Tuesday morning when he could almost smell the interior of Service Canada’s offices so close to the end of the day, a night he spent on Rue Racine Est had spent.
“It’s not human what they do to us,” complains the father of two.
The same story with Hélène Labarbe from Sherbrooke. The mother-of-two went to the Service Canada center in the Saint-Laurent neighborhood of Montreal at 5 p.m. Sunday to see the size of the line waiting for her.
She immediately took the road to Saguenay while a local friend secured her a spot. In Chicoutimi on Tuesday morning, his flight was scheduled for the same evening at 19:00 from Montreal’s Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Airport.
A Lacolle man who was reportedly planning to drive to Disney World, Fla., had to express courier his children’s birth certificates because he didn’t have the originals.
“I had to go there by car, but since we don’t have a departure date when we go there by car, I had to buy plane tickets or they would never serve me,” he said.
Frédéric Pépin, who landed in Saguenay from Montreal on Monday night, reckons he will have to spend the week in Chicoutimi as there is no better option. Luckily, the family man can telecommute from his folding chair by connecting to the free Wi-Fi at a nearby RBC branch.
With that, the Chicoutimi office, which has enabled many to avoid long lines since the crisis began, seems to have been caught up by the wave.