Short lines for passports at some rural Service Canada locations in eastern Ontario

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For weeks now thousands of Canadians have lined up, many overnight, to apply for a passport at Service Canada offices.

But at some smaller locations in eastern Ontario, the line-ups are but a trickle, with some people driving hours to take advantage.

Outside of a Service Canada location in Montreal, a line wraps around the street, with people bringing lawn chairs and sleeping bags to camp out.

In Gatineau, Que. on Thursday, there was a smaller line but still a long wait.

But at the Service Canada location in Cornwall, there was no line.

“I walked in there and said, ‘where’s everybody?’ There’s no one!” said Louisa Owusu-Ansah, who drove from Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que.

“There is a long line up in Quebec and Ottawa, so this is the closest that I could come to and fortunately when I came there was no one waiting,” she added.

She said a friend gave her the tip to travel to a smaller city to renew her passport, after trying to drop off paperwork in Ottawa and Quebec previously.

“There was so many people and I had to go somewhere so I left and then came back the next day at dawn, to wait,” Owusu-Ansah said.

Another woman said she also drove for 45 minutes from Quebec to drop off her paperwork.

Other rural locations in eastern Ontario were also quiet on Thursday, like Pembroke and Brockville.

In three hours at the Brockville location, only two people told CTV News they were there for passports.

One woman drove from Winchester to skip the long lines in Ottawa; the other dropped off her paperwork in April and was looking for an update. She leaves the country and needs it on June 29.

Dozens of people in line at the Gatineau Service Canada office on Thursday. (Chris Black/CTV News Ottawa)

Back in Gatineau, a man drove from Montreal just to wait for hours and hours. He also sent in his paperwork in weeks ago and was wondering where his passport was.

“They have limited capacity and they are full,” he said. “You can feel the frustration that people have in this situation.”

He’s supposed to leave on a trip Monday. Now unsure, if that will happen.

“People who are leaving on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they are like more priority than us. I’m very, very sad about this. Very, very frustrating,” he added.

While rural locations do offer quicker service to renew or apply for a passport, Service Canada is telling people the estimated wait time to receive it is still 9 to 11 weeks.

“I don’t know maybe it’s because of the time (of day), but I still think it’s worth it to drive to small towns,” Owusu-Ansah said. “There’s no waiting period.”

On Thursday, the minister responsible for passport services directed Service Canada to do more in major urban centres where passport-processing delays are most severe.

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould said the agency is implementing new triage measures to provide a more “intensive, client-specific” approach.

“In the early morning, increased numbers of managers and executives are assisting and speaking directly with clients in order to triage lineups at specialized passport sites,” the statement reads.

With files from CTVNews.ca producer Sarah Turnbull

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