Service Canada offices to shutter for in-person services over COVID-19 concerns

Service Canada offices to shutter for in-person services over COVID-19 concerns

Officials will make alternative arrangements for those who still need personalized services

The federal government is shutting down the network of in-person Service Canada centres over COVID-19 concerns.

Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa’s city hall, have already started to close as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased and workers were needed elsewhere, or felt uncomfortable about going in due to health concerns.

The Liberals say the move, announced late Thursday night, shouldn’t affect most unemployed workers who seek employment insurance benefits since the vast majority of applications are done online.

And a new benefit for those who don’t qualify for EI but see their income dry up due to COVID-19 will be available through an online application. The web portal is targeted for opening early next month.

The minister in charge of Service Canada says officials will make alternative arrangements for those who still need personalized services — a group that tends to include seniors and Indigenous Peoples.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government’s service delivery model should reflect the fact that Canadians are being asked to stay home over public health concerns.

“During a time when we are asking most Canadians to stay home, we need to make sure our service delivery model follows the best public health advice, while also meeting the needs of Canadians,” he said in a statement.

“We recognize that this might be a challenge for some Canadians who prefer to receive services in person. I want to assure Canadians that we are committed to ensuring they all have access to the supports they need and deserve.”

Hussen said staff at the offices will instead focus on answering questions coming into call centres. Others will be available to call people directly by request to help with EI and pension applications.

“This will allow more Canadians to get the support they need, while better protecting both them and our staff,” the statement said.

The unions representing workers at the centres, who had urged the government to better protect front-line staff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The network of 318 Service Canada centres, along with almost 250 more outreach centres, received about 8.4 million visits during the 12-month period between April 2018 and March 2019. The figure, noted in a recently posted evaluation of federal services, included over 1.9 million people walking in to use a self-service kiosk.

ALSO READ: Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

The demand on Service Canada has increased in recent days as more than one million new applications for EI benefits have arrived in just over a week as businesses close over public health concerns or requirements and let workers go.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the frustration many of those Canadians are feeling trying to get information about their request for financial aid, saying during his daily press briefing that civil servants were working around the clock to process claims.

He noted that workers had been deployed from other departments to bolster the ranks of those answering phones at inundated call centres.

READ MORE: How to apply for employment insurance

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusfederal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Clearwater his home to many animals, large and small. A community vet is sorely needed, according to a new coalition that is getting the wheels turning in a recruitment campaign for Clearwater. (Claire Hanna photo)
Locals band together to recruit veterinarian to community

A recruitment campaign is in the works as current vet to retire in June

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Birth control pills, contraception. (Pixabay)
Council supports Vernon’s push for free contraception

District of Clearwater councillors receieved a letter from the City of Vernon… Continue reading

File photo
Driver reports being followed on Hwy 5 from Kamloops

Submitted by Sgt. G.D. Simpson February 25 The Clearwater Fire Department requested… Continue reading

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read