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Everything B.C. residents need to know about how the massive strike in Canada affects travel

Only emergency passports are being issued and the airport says "there is a potential for slowdowns."
Find out how the massive strike in Canada affects travellers looking to get a Canada passport or catch a Vancouver flight from YVR airport.

Travellers who need to catch a flight or get a passport right now might be in for a rude awakening. 

Depending on the urgency of their request, most Canadians won't be able to get a passport due to a massive strike action affecting nearly one-third of the federal workers. 

Air passengers may also face delays since federal employees work at airports across Canada, including B.C.'s biggest airport.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) told V.I.A. in an emailed statement that "there is a potential for slowdowns" due to the job action of some Public Service Alliance of Canada members and it will continue to monitor the situation. 

While the airport has "not seen any direct impacts" so far, it will continue to update passengers. 

Travellers planning to cross the Canada-U.S. land border aren't expected to be affected by the strike action, as Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) workers who are participating in the strike action do not provide front-line operational services and comprise under 20 per cent (17.6 per cent) of its employee population, said spokesperson Maria Ladouceur. 

"It is expected that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) services to travellers and businesses will be maintained," she told V.I.A. 

Border Services Officers make up the largest portion of the CBSA's employees at 46 per cent and "are not in a legal strike position and will be reporting for duty as normal," Ladouceur added. 

If there any job action or work disruption arises, the CBSA will work to maintain border security and facilitate the flow of travel and goods.

Canada Passport application process disruption by strike action

Employment and Social Development Canada and Service Canada spokesperson Natalie Huneault told V.I.A. that most domestic passport services are currently unavailable. 

"Delays should be expected in the processing of passport applications during the current labour disruption," she said. 

During the strike, Service Canada will only process domestic passport applications for emergency and humanitarian situations. Additionally, these services are only available only at specialized passport sites.

Humanitarian/emergency situations are defined as:

  • passport clients at risk of financial hardship
  • passport clients who rely on travel as a source of employment, and their income security will be jeopardized
  • passport clients who must travel for medical reasons, or have had a death or illness in the family
  • passport clients whose situation is deemed urgent on compassionate grounds

If your reason for travel does not meet this criterion, Service Canada will not process your passport application while employees are striking. As a result, delivery times will likely "exceed published service standards," explained Huneault.

Canadians who reside outside of the country, including in the United States, will be able to get their passports processed because it is deemed an essential service. However, they may experience delays. 

Considerations for B.C. residents hoping to book travel during the strike in Canada

Passport Waiting Times Founder Andy Anderson says the strike will cause "huge problems for passport applicants" and anyone without urgent travel requirements won't be able to get their travel document anytime soon.

"It’s also going to be a massive impact to the travel industry as people won’t book holidays due to the uncertainty," he told V.I.A. " The worse part is there is no set end date to the strikes." 

Anderson said he will set up a page on his website that will provide information about the impact on current applicants. 

Nate Mosher, Location Manager and Network Support for Flight Centre Canada, says travellers should contact the airline they are flying with or their travel agent to amend dates if they run into an issue due to the strike. If needed, air passengers may also be able to get travel transferred to a future travel credit. 

While it is always advised to have a passport that doesn't expire within six months of the date you return home from travel, you may not be required to allot that much time, depending on your destination, Mosher told V.I.A. 

In a worst-case scenario, you can travel on a passport that is expiring within a few months, provided you leave some wiggle room.

"Check the entry requirements for your destination," he explained. "Many countries just require your passport to be valid on entry, rather than the well-known 'six months past return date,' so a renewal may not be necessary."

Photo via Nate Mosher/Flight Centre Canada