Gracie and James Sinclair were among many central Albertans at Red Deer’s Service Canada passport office on Thursday. They need a passport for their baby son, Jameson. (Contributed photo).

Gracie and James Sinclair were among many central Albertans at Red Deer’s Service Canada passport office on Thursday. They need a passport for their baby son, Jameson. (Contributed photo).

Central Albertans flock to Red Deer’s new passport service site — and some are turned away

The office was at capacity for the day by 10:30 a.m. on Thursday

The new Red Deer passport service was so packed with people on Thursday morning that some central Albertans were getting turned away by 10:30 a.m.

“They said they’re at maximum capacity,” said an unimpressed man who had arrived mid-morning only to be told to come back later.

Red Deer’s Service Canada site was one of four new passport service locations across Canada announced this week by the federal government to help deal with a backlog of applications.

While its waiting room was full, the Red Deer office couldn’t ease passport woes for all of the central Albertans who lined up early to get in on Thursday morning.

A mother and daughter reported driving an hour to get to Red Deer, sitting for two and a half hours in the Service Canada waiting area, and then being turned away for the third time this week because people with appointments took priority.

“We’ve come here twice before,” said the frustrated daughter, who declined to give her last name, fearing repercussions for her passport application.

The earliest available appointments are for October, she added. “It’s like the Canadian government doesn’t want you to travel,” said her mother.

Another young woman said she was the third person in line outside the service site at 8:06 a.m., before the centre opened, yet left disappointed at about 10:45 a.m. She had applied for a passport on June 1 for a non-refundable trip booked for Sept. 10, but hasn’t heard anything yet.

According to the government, Canadians with trips booked can get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including Red Deer’s site. But urgent services for people who need a passport within 48 hours are still only available in bigger urban centres — including Calgary and Edmonton.

This woman, who also didn’t want to be named, said she tried to start an expedited passport process at the Red Deer site on Thursday, but was told she could not apply for a 10-day turn-around because her application was already in motion.

“They say you can’t get a passport until you have a travel date and then you have a travel date and you have no passport,” she added.

Maria Barnes area director for Service Canada for Western Canada and the Territories, said some adjusting and pivoting has to be done whenever a new office opens

“It can take a day or two to see what is working well,” said Barnes, who heard the Red Deer office was seeing people throughout the day, even though “bottlenecks” occurred when the waiting room reached capacity.

Barnes said she was sorry to hear some people are having to return multiple times to try to see Red Deer agents. If their travel date is looming, she suggested these central Albertans may receive swifter help at a larger passport office in Edmonton or Calgary.

But she stressed staff in all locations are making every effort, including working overtime, to try to process applications and see as many clients as possible. This includes looking for ways to create more appointment times at offices, added Barnes.

Applicants who are concerned about how long it’s taking to get their passport can enter a reference number on the Government of Canada’s website, www.gc.ca (under ‘Get a passport’) and check on their application status, she said.

Barnes added there’s also a ‘Request a transfer’ option on the same website, which allows passport applications to be expedited if travel bookings are coming up fast.

“Every situation is slightly different, but there’s a full range of options.”

Some prospective travellers who didn’t have imminent flight bookings had more positive things to say on Thursday about getting passport processing services at the local Service Canada.

Cody Berry said he doesn’t plan to travel until December but wanted to get the ball rolling on getting a passport for his newborn daughter. “There’s no sense in waiting.”

James and Gracie Sinclair were also at the centre on Thursday to get a passport for their baby, Jameson. Having a Red Deer location that can complete the entire process is certainly less hassle, said James.

To make a passport application appointment at Service Canada, please call 1-800-622-6232 or go online to canada.ca/service-canada-home.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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