How the strikes affect passports, immigration and taxes


Eight business days were lost to the strike held by federal workers nominally employed by the Treasury Board of Canada, while three more were lost for workers at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Those public servants from the Treasury Board work at a wide array of government agencies and departments, including sites offering key frontline services such as passport and immigration application processing.

How was work at those services affected by the strikes? What should you know going into those offices this week?

Here’s what we know. 

Passport services

While the strike did not create a significant backlog of passport applications, people might still experience longer than normal lines this week, Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said.

Service Canada received about 27,900 applications during the disruption, far fewer than forecasted. Only applications that met essential criteria for humanitarian or emergency situations were processed during the strike. 

Data does suggest the strike might have prompted a bit of a surge. 

More recent figures hadn’t been posted as of Wednesday afternoon, but during the week of April 10-16 — the same week the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced Treasury Board workers might walk off the job — Employment and Social Development Canada received 74,830 applications. 

That was up 17 per cent from the week before. 

With services in full swing again, passport seekers whose cases are deemed urgent, including people with visa needs or who are travelling imminently, will be prioritized.

Don’t want to chance it? You can request urgent or express passport services at specialized passport offices for a fee.

Immigration services

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Tuesday about 100,000 immigration cases went unprocessed during the strike.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) had already been catching up in recent months from significant backlogs created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fraser said the recent strike means it will take longer to get back to pre-pandemic service standards, but he expects the department will have an easier time getting through the backlog thanks to recent changes that have boosted productivity in the workforce.

“My expectation is we’re going to be, over the course of the next few months, in a very good position,” he said. 

IRCC declined to specify how much of an additional backlog the strike created, saying only that it is assessing and “we anticipate the impacts are varied by line of business.”

“The lack of candour on the part of the department will not help in repairing any damage already brought about by the massive delays during the pandemic,” said Lou Janssen Dangzalan, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer. 

“I had hoped they learned from that, but it is a pity that they have not.”

Here’s a list of IRCC services and how they are still affected as they recover from the strike. 

Tax services 

It was announced early Thursday the public-sector union representing Canada Revenue Agency employees struck a tentative deal with the federal government, ending a strike of 35,000 workers just after the tax season wrapped up.

Public Service Alliance of Canada members who are Canada Revenue Agency employees sing while picketing outside a CRA office on tax deadline day, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 1, 2023.
Public Service Alliance of Canada members who are Canada Revenue Agency employees sing while picketing outside a CRA office on tax deadline day in Surrey, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

CBC asked the agency early Tuesday afternoon about any backlog and how long it would take to climb out of it (once the strike ends). The agency had not responded by late Wednesday afternoon.

In the latest collective bargaining update posted on its website, the CRA said it continues to accept all returns and “the vast majority of those filed electronically are processed automatically by the system without additional delay.”

Marc Briere, National President of the Union of Taxation Employees, participates in a news conference on the negotiations with Canada Revenue Agency, as PSAC-UTE members, who comprise a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), remain on strike, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
Marc Brière, national president of the Union of Taxation Employees, participates in a news conference on the negotiations with Canada Revenue Agency on Wednesday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Still, UTE national president Marc Brière warned during a Wednesday news conference that some tax filers are still late and if the labour situation didn’t get resolved soon, “it’s gonna be a tremendous backlog at the CRA.”

There will be delays in processing some income tax and benefit returns, particularly those filed by paper, and wait times will go up at contact centres, according to the CRA’s website.

More information on CRA service impacts can be found here. It said while announcing the tentative deal that it “has already taken measures to resume its normal operations and to fully restore services that were affected.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *