Service Canada to shut down all in-person centres over coronavirus concerns

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 across the country as cases have increased and workers were needed elsewhere or felt uncomfortable about going in due to the pandemic.

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

The minister in charge of Service Canada says officials will make alternative arrangements for those who still need in-person services.

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

“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.

“This is an evolving situation, and we will continue to make sure our response reflects the unprecedented challenges we face. Along with serving Canadians, health and safety is and will remain our top priority.”

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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.

Service Canada has just over 600 in-person centres across the country.

—With files from Global News

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