Police called as anger boils over at Surrey, B.C., passport office

After spending days camping on the sidewalk outside Surrey’s Central City mall hoping to get an emergency passport in time for long weekend cross-border travel, several dozen people marched inside to the Service Canada office and demanded to be seen.

Along them was Kamal Kaur, who said: “They didn’t come call us in, nobody called us, so around 11 o’clock we decided to go inside.”

Discussions between that group and security guarding the door to the Service Canada office inside the mall got so heated, RCMP were called.

“The police got here and tried to calm down the crowd. The crowd let them know exactly what’s going on and how long they’ve been waiting,” said Avang Najarli, who had camped out for two days for her passport.

Const. Gurvinder Ghag with Surrey RCMP said officers were there to keep the peace. “Some people who were in line waiting to get their passports were frustrated with the wait times. Unfortunately that’s not something that we have control over,” Ghag said, urging patience.

Serena Vlassovoulis wasn’t surprised police were called. She spent Wednesday night and all day Thursday outside the Surrey passport office hoping to get documents for her trip to Las Vegas on Saturday, but left frustrated and empty handed. Others had been camping out there since Monday.

With time running out, Vlassovoulis decided to try her luck at the Vancouver passport office inside Sinclair Centre on Friday, which was taking some emergency last minute walk ins. Her flight is booked for 7 a.m. on Saturday.

“I did everything that was necessary to have my passport in time, and I definitely think the government has to do something about this whole situation and fast, because people are really fed up,” Vlassovoulis said, while sitting on the floor of the atrium outside Service Canada with a friend who also needs an emergency passport for their trip to Vegas, because the ones they ordered in March still haven’t arrived.

Just behind them in line, Cherie Watson, who’s booked on a Saturday flight to Mexico City for a long-awaited family celebration.

“I woke up this morning very discouraged. I’ve been here, this is my third day, and I’m tired, my body hurts, and I really want my passport,” said Watson.

She understands Service Canada is short staffed, but believes the federal government needs to do more to tackle the huge backlog of passport renewals.

“They knew that once they opened things up, people would want to travel and go home and see their loved ones. So they should have put other things into play here,” said Watson.

Everyone in line who had long weekend travel plans knew this was their last chance. Service Canada’s passport offices are now all closed until Tuesday.