New Brunswick

Crowds flock to Fredericton passport office after long lines in Montreal

People lined up outside the Service Canada office in Fredericton on Friday morning, optimistic the wait to apply for a passport would be much shorter than in Montreal.

Some Montrealers are driving almost eight hours for the shorter wait to get passports

Ky Nguyen, with her dog, Miss Daisy, travelled from East Montreal for eight hours to avoid passport wait times in her city. (Shane Fowler/ CBC)

People lined up outside the Service Canada office in Fredericton on Friday morning, optimistic the wait to apply for a passport would be much shorter than in Montreal.

A day after François Gamache's publicized trip from Montreal to a short line in Fredericton to get a passport, David Nguyen and Vy Nguyen grabbed their dog and raced to New Brunswick from the east end of Montreal on the same mission. 

Although they found a Fredericton passport office that was busier than usual, David Nguyen said the Montreal lines were much worse.

"It's so bad," he said. "It's like people are camping outside.The building was bigger than this one, and they were circling [it]."

The two friends drove eight hours to avoid the Montreal lineups — and many other Montrealers had the same idea.

WATCH | Why are Montrealers driving 8 hours to pick up passports in Fredericton?

These Montrealers say driving to Fredericton the ‘only way’ to get a passport

3 months ago
Duration 1:38
Dozens of people are coming to New Brunswick from Quebec to avoid delays and long waits for passports.

Dozens of cars with Quebec plates filled the Service Canada parking lot in Fredereicton, and some had arrived as early as 3 a.m.

For Michael Haggerty, a Fredericton resident, it was a much shorter trip, and he picked up his passport successfully just on his lunch break. 

"I stood in line for a couple of minutes because there's a bunch of people here from Quebec, but I waited to get in the door and then they just confirmed it was me and handed me my passport."

He scheduled an express passport appointment the last week, where he filled out paperwork and paid the fees. 

Fredericton resident Michael Haggerty went to get his passport during his lunch break and met a crowd at Service Canada. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"It was like a ghost town then. There were maybe six people. And when I walked in there today, there was a line up to get to the commissioner and to even get in the door. … The place is just packed with people."

Some of the Montrealers commended the service in Fredericton.

Vy Nguyen said even getting their passport a month before their planned trip was a nerve-wracking prospect, especially since her sister had to wait seven hours at the Montreal office to get one.

"[It's] too nervous to wait … the whole system doesn't make sense," said Vy Nguyen.

The Fredericton office includes a live estimated wait time on its website, something the Montreal office does not have.

Last week, Karina Gould, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said 1,200 employees had been hired or were in the process of being hired to manage the flood of requests surging through Service Canada offices.

She said there will be no compensation for travellers forced to cancel their plans.

There was also talk of borrowing about 200 employees from the Canada Revenue Agency, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Global Affairs Canada.

Gamache was critical of how Service Canada has managed things, saying the passport problem was predictable.

"The Trudeau government is well aware that Service Canada has been going all out for years," he said. "In the end, it was logical that this crisis was going to happen, it was foreseeable."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Prapti Bamaniya is a journalist in Fredericton at CBC New Brunswick. She's completing her bachelor's of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University. You can reach her at prapti.bamaniya@cbc.ca

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