11,000 passports stuck in limbo now en route to Canadians

Thousands of completed passports that have been stuck in limbo since March because of the pandemic are finally making their way to the people who ordered them across Canada.

Canada Post suspended pickup and delivery on March 19

The Daniells family of Cambridge, Ont., finally have their son's passport, after months of waiting. It was one of 11,000 passports stuck in limbo after Canada Post suspended passport pickup and delivery services on March 19. (Submitted by Robert Daniells)

Thousands of passports that have been stuck in limbo since March because of the pandemic are finally making their way to the people who ordered them across Canada.

It's been a frustrating wait for Robert Daniells and his family in Cambridge, Ont., who say they've struggled to get a straight answer from both Service Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

For months he's been trying to determine the status of his adopted son's passport, after submitting the documents in person on March 16.

When Daniells followed up in early April he was told the passport had been created but was stuck in the department's central processing centre and to check back in a couple of weeks. 

The weeks became months and each time he called, Daniells says he got a different answer. First it was that the passport office was closed, then that Canada Post wasn't delivering passports. He even enlisted the help of his local member of Parliament, Bryan May, but says even his staff struggled to make a difference. 

"We're opening bars and restaurants," said Daniells. "But it seems to be that Service Canada is last to open up and there's not a lot of rhyme or reason for it."

Last step in adoption process

The federal government has advised against non-essential travel during the COVID pandemic.

Daniells knows most people wouldn't dream of travelling right now — but getting his six-year-old son's passport was a linchpin in the family's plans to travel to England at the end of July, so he can meet his adopted grandparents. 

Daniells emigrated from England in the early 2000s, and his parents still live in Northhamptonshire, 85 kilometres west of Cambridge.

They aren't in great health and Daniells says the family needs to get together to make plans for the future. 

The passport is also the final step in a years-long adoption process. 

"We'd always promised him that he'd get a passport when he was adopted. He's a young boy with a vivid imagination," said Daniells. "And he always wanted to go to England to see my parents … and so every step of the adoption process, which is quite lengthy, he would turn around and say 'Am I adopted now?'" 

Daniells and his wife would say no, there was still more paperwork to be done, but assured him that as soon as the last forms were signed, and everything was official, the boy would get his passport and they would all go to England. 

"So for him, it's always been quite an important part of his adoption process, for it to be finalized," said Daniells. "When we first showed him the final paperwork, his first reaction was: 'Where's my passport?'"

Robert Daniells' six-year-old son has been waiting for years to get his passport. It became the family's final goalpost in a lengthy adoption process. (Submitted by Robert Daniells)

Canada Post delivery suspended

Service Canada told CBC News it suspended general passport services on March 19, but offered critical passport services for urgent travel. 

Service appears to have at least partly resumed and, according to a spokesperson, 11,000 passports that had accumulated since March 19 were mailed out on July 2 

Service Canada said Canada Post was partly responsible for the backlog, because "pick up and delivery services were suspended due to an inability to secure signatures upon delivery," due to physical distancing. A new delivery process has been worked out, it said. 

Canada Post told CBC News mail carriers will now leave passports in a secure place if possible, such as a community mailbox or a mail slot in a resident's door. 

In absence of that, mail carriers will knock, step back, and if someone answers the door, the passport will be left at a safe distance.

If no one answers, the passport will be left at the local post office where it can be signed for the next day — the same procedure Canada Post put in place in March for packages that require a signature on delivery.

Between March 19 and July 2, Service Canada said it provided 21,000 passports on an urgent basis. That number includes passports supplied to citizens abroad.


Jackie Sharkey is a producer for CBC News in Kitchener-Waterloo and an occasional guest host. She has been been based in Kitchener, Ont., since the station was created in 2013, after working for CBC in Kelowna, B.C., Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

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