OTTAWA -- All Service Canada locations in Ottawa and across Canada are now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Government announced late Thursday evening that the in-person centres will be closed, starting Friday morning. Canadians are being encouraged to apply online for employment insurance, pension benefits and other Service Canada services.

In a statement, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen says “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.”

Hussein says while the in person Service Canada centres are closing, Canadians will still be able to access their benefits online. 

“Employees at Service Canada sites will turn their attention to serving Canadians over the phones. Our Citizen Service Officers will be providing personalized service support for EI and pension applications, in addition to the services provided over the phone by our call centres,”said Hussein. 

On Twitter Thursday evening, Canadian Employment and Immigration Union vice-president Crystal Warner said her members wanted to serve during the pandemic, but were concerned about their safety.

“But if the employer forces them to take actions that put them in serious danger, they are obligated to invoke their right to refuse dangerous work. The employer wouldn’t listen to us, they were putting our members in imminent risk of danger, so we withdrew our labour.”