Advertisement

Service Canada sets up task team to help Nunavut AWG athletes with passports

Hockey fans cheer on Team Nunavut at last year's Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Fort McMurray, Alta. This year, dozens of Nunavut athletes are still in passport limbo just weeks ahead of the 2024 AWG in Alaska. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Hockey fans cheer on Team Nunavut at last year's Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Fort McMurray, Alta. This year, dozens of Nunavut athletes are still in passport limbo just weeks ahead of the 2024 AWG in Alaska. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Service Canada has formed a dedicated task team to help Nunavut's Arctic Winter Games (AWG) athletes with their passport applications.

As of last week, upwards of 70 athletes for the upcoming games were without a passport, needed to cross the Canada-U.S. border. The Games are being hosted in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley in March.

The issue reached the House of Commons last week when Nunavut MP Lori Idlout leveraged the situation to press the government on Service Canada delivery in the territory, highlighting how Nunavummiut sometimes spend thousands of dollars to fly to southern Canada to expedite passport applications.

Idlout's office had been in the process of helping some 20 to 30 AWG athletes with their applications, with her staff hand-delivering them to Service Canada passport offices in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. But in November, she said her office was "red-flagged" by Service Canada and her staff was forbidden from presenting any more passport applications in person.

In an interview with CBC News, Idlout noted how Service Canada correspondences are only in English or French, when many Nunavummiut can't read either language with Inuktitut as their mother tongue.

A spokesperson for federal Citizens' Services Minister Terry Beech shared the update on the task team over the weekend, saying Service Canada is in regular communication with Mariele DePeuter, Team Nunavut's chef de mission.

"The team will check the status of each application to determine the next steps required for processing," Beech's office told CBC News via text message Saturday night.

Liberal MP Terry Beech rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. The Burnaby North-Seymour MP was one of two Liberals to vote against a motion supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Liberal MP Terry Beech rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. The Burnaby North-Seymour MP was one of two Liberals to vote against a motion supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

A spokesperson for federal Citizens' Services Minister Terry Beech, seen here in the House of Commons last year, said efforts were being made to ensure Nunavut athletes receive their passports on time. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"The task team will also determine the fastest and easiest means to deliver the passport, either pick up or mail out options, based on how each application was submitted and what option was requested. Every possible effort is being made to ensure that the athletes receive their passports on time for their travel."

Beech was unavailable for an interview on Monday, and Service Canada was unable to accommodate CBC's request for an interview before deadline.

Emailed questions to Service Canada on why Idlout's office was red-flagged in the first place went unanswered.