(Ottawa) A family trip to the United States. This is one of the only glimmers of hope for a 14-year-old teenager who has been battling cancer for several months. The project has already been canceled for the first time due to the pandemic. The federal civil servants’ strike could put him in jeopardy again.
The parents were planning to apply for passports earlier this year for the July trip to Hawaii, but their son’s diagnosis turned everything upside down. Today, they hope that the labor dispute between the federal government and 155,000 of its civil servants will be resolved quickly so that they can obtain new travel documents.
“Maybe issuing passports isn’t an essential service, but this trip is for our family: recharging the batteries and reuniting,” says Anik Langlois, the teenager’s mother, in a lengthy email. sent to La Presse.
His son Émile has been hospitalized since January 16. Tumors compressed his spine and left him paraplegic. Against all expectations, he was able to take a few steps at the end of March.
“We were ready to travel despite the limitations he will have at that time, which we don’t know yet,” said Ms. Langlois, who is a nurse, in an interview. She spends most of her time in the hospital, as does her husband, Stéphane.
“When we listen to our politicians on TV, we have the feeling that they are a little far from the reality of the people,” adds this one, who is also a nurse. “We can understand the demands of the unions, but behind all this there are real stories of people like us. »
“In a way, they took my passport hostage,” laments Benoit Giguère in an interview. A sentiment expressed by several other La Presse readers. He submitted his application to obtain his new travel document on Monday, two days before the start of the walkout.
He had asked for the express service, fearing that he would not be able to get his passport in time if the strike was called, but he was refused since he was not scheduled to leave for the United States until May 18.
“Ah… no, no, don’t worry about that, if we go on strike it will be two or three days maximum,” the official who processed his request allegedly told him. His new passport was due for delivery on May 1, but he doesn’t know if he will be able to get it now. And the old one was destroyed.
Jean Préfontaine, who was expecting his daughter’s passport on April 19, the first day of the strike, chose to take the lead and find out the day before. Unable to get details because the file was still open. “In addition, the employee suggested that I call back later this week, so after the strike was called,” he said in an email. I was flabbergasted! Is it smoke? His family trip to Mexico is scheduled for the end of May.
“Despite that I understand the reasons for the strike, I find it unacceptable that we take the population hostage in this way,” Ema P. wrote to La Presse. It’s been four years since we traveled because of COVID-19 first, because of the war in Ukraine last year. She, too, needs to renew her daughter’s passport in preparation for a trip to visit relatives and friends.
Several worried faces could be seen Thursday at the Service Canada passport office at Complexe Guy-Favreau in downtown Montreal. On site, two federal government managers explained to the public that only passport applications “for humanitarian emergencies” were processed. All other demands had to wait, and would only be accepted after the strike was over.
“It’s been two months since I had my appointment, I’m leaving work to show up and they can’t do anything for me, they haven’t even notified me by email not to come for nothing,” said lamented a citizen who simply said her name was Alison. The young woman has two trips planned this summer, to the United States and Europe, and wonders if she should cancel everything.
“They tell me to wait until the strike is over, but no one knows when it will end, and maybe there will be too many passport applications by then. I’m really angry,” she said.
A woman who said her name was Michelle was also angry. “I came for my son’s passport, we have to go to China in June, but everything is closed. They told me to follow the news and reapply when the strike is over. I also have to apply for a visa. It’s stressful, because I don’t know if we’ll be able to get our documents in time. »
“I have a lot of sympathy for the people who applied for their passports,” Employment and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said in an interview. It is hoped that the strike will end quickly. »
There is still a glimmer of hope for people who submitted their forms in person before the start of the strike. “If the passport was printed before midnight Wednesday, they can pick it up,” Gould said in an interview. If not, they must wait until the end of the general strike. » It is possible to check the status of your application online with an email address.
Some 85,000 applications are likely to pile up for each week of the hiatus, raising fears of a backlog similar to last year’s passport crisis.
“I don’t believe we would be in the same situation because we are in a much better position with the capacity we have in the system,” the minister explained. But – and this is a big but – it depends on how long the strike lasts. However, she notes a drop in demand since the start of the labor dispute.
Negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board continued Thursday. The union is demanding a 13.5% wage increase over three years, while the government is offering 9% instead. Job security and the addition of telecommuting in the collective agreement are among the other points in dispute.