BILL SIKSAY, MP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 23, 2007
Siksay calls for immediate action on Passport Office chaos
April 23, 2007, Burnaby: After months of inaction on the part of the federal Conservative government, Bill Siksay, MP for Burnaby-Douglas, has again called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take immediate action on the chaos at the Lower Mainland Passport Offices.
“When you have people lining up at 4:30 AM, waiting in line all day, often in the rain with no shelter, only to be turned away and told to return the next day, you have a situation that is out of control”, Siksay said. “Why the Conservatives did not anticipate this situation and properly prepare for it, given that they were well aware that the new US requirements for passports for air travel were coming, is beyond comprehension.”
The number of calls and requests for assistance to obtain urgent passports to Siksay’s constituency office, and many others across Canada, has been nothing short of amazing. “My constituents have been put in unacceptable situations over this debacle – no one should have to take two or three days off work to wait in lines to obtain required Canadian identification,” stated Siksay. “The Conservatives say that they are addressing the problem by opening more offices to receive passport applications. But the fact is the problem is processing applications, not receiving them. This mess must be cleaned up immediately”.
By ignoring this problem, the Conservative government has failed Canadians. Siksay is concerned that if they do not act quickly, they will face this same problem again in 2012 when all of these individuals will have to renew their passports or when requirements for land and sea travel through the US are implemented, which could be as early as January 2008.
The letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Siksay is attached.
- 30 –
For further information: Bill Siksay, MP 604-291-8863
BURNABY PLEASE REPLY TO BURNABY
April 18, 2007
The Honourable Peter MacKay, PC, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. MacKay,
I am writing to bring to your immediate attention the ongoing and extreme difficulty faced by Canadians in accessing passport services in a timely and courteous manner since January 2007, at the Passport offices in Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey, BC as well as in accessing the mail-in service in Gatineau, Quebec. I have been contacted by over one hundred constituents regarding this dire situation and attach some recent letters for your immediate attention.
While your government and the Liberal government before you were fully aware of the changes to US passport requirements effective January 23, 2007, no effective and timely measures were taken to address the situation. As a result of this gross negligence, Canadians are suffering tremendously and completely unnecessarily as they try to get their passports. Since February 2007, my constituency office alone has dealt with over 100 complaints about passport delay and the extreme inconvenience caused by this situation. The main issues that have arisen as a result of this casework are outlined below for your information:
1. Misinformation on the Website
The Passport Canada website continues to misrepresent the processing time for mailed in applications, both by Canadians as well as by Members of Parliament. Mailed in applications are supposed to be processed in 10 weeks according to the latest update whereas Passport Canada is still processing applications received in January 2007. Applications sent by Members of Parliament are supposed to be processed in 30 working days but the MP Section is still working on February 14, 2007. According to the website, applicants are still being encouraged to mail in their applications without giving them accurate and adequate information about time frames and accessibility of information.
Action required: Passport Canada website must be updated at least twice a week with accurate information and clear directions to applicants.
Canadians are not being provided any access to information or updates on their applications due to staff shortage and under-resourced Passport offices. While the staff at these offices is to be commended for their dedication, your government must be held responsible for putting them as well as their service users in such an abusive situation. The Call Centre is unreachable even when BC residents are waking up at 4.30 am to call in. The email address provided to them is equally inaccessible as responses are not being given to most people for weeks. Member of Parliament liaison phones are not attended as my staff has now stopped calling these numbers after leaving daily messages for many weeks. The MP email address responds to our queries with two to three word responses such as “not in the system” and “still processing Jan 19.” Such a complete inaccessibility of service is unacceptable both for Canadians as well as for their Members of Parliament. My staff is now resorting to directly contacting Supervisors for all queries in order to get a speedy resolution.
Action required: Recalling retired employees back to work and hiring a few hundred new employees has not worked. Passport Canada must hire and train as many new staff as required on an emergency basis, open new Passport Canada centres across the country with full operational capacity, and in the meantime, increase cooperation with Service Canada to accept and review passport applications.
3. Inefficient waiting system at Passport offices
Despite having three offices in Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver, the lineups continue to grow as does the inconvenience caused to applicants at these lineups. Briefly, a ticketing system was used at the Vancouver office which was resulting in a less taxing wait for applicants, but that too was stopped and now applicants must wait in an indefinite line up. One constituent informed me today that she waited in line from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm two days in a row but could not get into the office, and was asked to come back a third day to get in line once again. The Surrey and Richmond offices only have a very limited inside seating capacity and applicants in Vancouver office now also must wait outside in inclement weather as Sinclair Centre, the building in which Passport Canada Vancouver office is housed, is not allowing applicants to line up inside any more.
Action required: An effective ticketing/appointment system to alleviate the suffering of Canadians waiting in inexcusable line ups. Simple measures such as taking down the name and identification of applicants in lineups can be taken to avoid appointment times being sold. Simple statistical analysis can provide average numbers of applications being processed per Passport office which should be used to give out numbers every day.
The present passport fiasco is an embarrassment for Passport Canada and for your government and a completely unacceptable situation for Canadians. I would therefore ask that you immediately take the actions indicated above to stop the stress and harassment Canadians are facing in obtaining a passport. This inexcusable situation is preventing Canadians to exercise their basic right of freedom of movement and is resulting in a loss of millions of dollars in lost tourism revenues. I would ask that you indicate a time frame in which new resources, new hiring and new Passport offices would be opened across Canada.
I look forward to your immediate response regarding this dire emergency situation facing Canadians.
Original signed by
Bill Siksay, MP