Manitoba says Vital Statistics backlog 99% cleared, but Taché woman still falling through cracks

The province says it’s cleared up most of the birth, death and marriage-certificate backlog from earlier this year, but one Manitoba woman is still waiting for her almost nine-month-old son’s birth to be registered.

RM of Taché mother Rebecca Stark needs a passport for him to travel for a family emergency, an application that requires a birth certificate, which in turn requires a birth registration.

She and her husband filled out the paperwork at the hospital when their son was born in early March but didn’t hear back from Vital Statistics, she said.

“I started calling them and emailing them (this summer), and I couldn’t ever get through on the phone, and nobody was responding to my emails,” Stark told Global News on Wednesday. “I started calling them every week for a while, and every time, it would tell me that their queue was full and to hang up and try again later.”

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“I feel like somewhere along the line something got missed with mine, and rather than just say, ‘Hey, we made a mistake and we’re processing it as fast as possible,’ they’re not working with me at all.”

Read more: Manitoba birth certificate backlogs have mother living ‘parent’s worst nightmare’

Between Aug. 11, 2020 and March 31 of this year, Vital Statistics accumulated a backlog of about 25,000 applications for certificates, a provincial spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, 99 per cent of it had been resolved, they said, adding that the branch was now focused on reducing its turnaround times for leftover applications.

Last week, the average processing time for online birth, death and marriage-certificate applications received as of April 1, 2021 was 7.6 weeks, thanks to “recruitment efforts and other operational improvements,” the spokesperson said.

“The Vital Statistics Branch has hired several front-line employees this year to improve our service delivery,” they said. “Public servants with subject-matter expertise have been reassigned to address operational requirements, and efforts have been made to stabilize the workforce through converting several front-line employees from term to regular appointments.”

As of Wednesday, the branch was employing 34 full-time employees with additional weekend staff and students, the spokesperson said, adding that they were still looking to hire more people. As of late June, it had 44 full-time equivalents working at the branch, including 10 temporary positions, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

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Meanwhile, Stark finally got through by phone last Friday and received a reference number for her son’s paperwork, only to find out on Tuesday this week that her son’s birth hadn’t been registered yet.

“They told me that it could take 18 weeks to register the birth plus another 18 weeks to print the certificate, and my child is 38 weeks old, so it’s well past both of those deadlines,” Stark said.

Read more: Manitoba parents concerned with birth registration delays

The agent she spoke with on Tuesday offered to put her on a list to get called about an appointment.

“I’m quite frustrated,” Stark said. “I’m hoping that it’s somebody who can actually make the change and can register the birth. But when I asked what would happen (at) this appointment, I wasn’t given any clear information about what would happen.”

“We can’t open an RESP for our child. He’s not registered with our tax information, and it’s just a safety concern for if he were to get critically ill and we would have to bring him to the hospital,” she said.

“We have no documentation saying that he is our child.”

“We have no documentation saying that he is our child,” RM of Taché mother Rebecca Stark said on Wednesday.
“We have no documentation saying that he is our child,” RM of Taché mother Rebecca Stark said on Wednesday. Rebecca Stark / Supplied

The province told Global News it changed the way it was handling incoming calls last week to make sure they were being answered and referred to Vital Statistics.

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As of Wednesday, Stark said she hadn’t heard back from Vital Statistics about an appointment and figures she won’t be able to travel anytime soon.

“If we have to cancel, I guess that’s just where we’re at.”

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