In less than two months’ time, Prince George and northern BC residents will be able to apply for a passport in their home community.
The office of Federal Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Karina Gould confirmed to Vista Radio today (Thursday) the Service Canada location is still on track to process passport applications sometime in April.
Last November, Gould announced the northern capital would offer 10-day passport services for the 300-thousand people who call the region home.
“What I have learned in the past year as the minister responsible for Service Canada is that there are far too many Canadians, especially those who live in rural and remote areas who don’t have access to passport services.”
“For me, it’s really important that Canadians wherever they live in this country have access to passport services.”
Currently, Kelowna is the nearest city to offer northern residents any sort of 10-day passport services, while other offices are located in Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.
“Hearing the stories of people who have to travel sometimes 15 hours or more and even have to spend a night in Vancouver just to get a passport. For me, I just thought that’s not how we should be doing things,” added Gould in an earlier interview with Vista Radio.
During the summer of 2022, Ottawa added 10-day passport services to 13 cities across Canada including Lethbridge, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, and Whitehorse with the remaining sites situated in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
After travel restrictions were lifted after two-plus years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for passport services went through the roof, leading to long lineups that often were blocks long in major centers like Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Calgary.
However, as of last month, Ottawa stated the passport backlog has been virtually eliminated and processing times are back to pre-pandemic levels
In the interim, PG and Northern residents can still drop off any passport applications in person at the 4th Avenue location to receive their passport within the allotted 20 business day window.
In addition, urgent and express service between two and nine business days is also available at larger centers but that is associated with paying a higher, which is often between $50-$110.
Vista Radio is currently in the process of setting up an interview with Minister Gould as the opening date for the PG passport office draws closer.
(From the files of Brendan Pawliw staff)