Tuesday,  November 28, 2023  2:44 pm

ArriveCAN might still be used after the pandemic, says public safety minister

ArriveCAN might still be used after the pandemic, says public safety minister
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino says ArriveCAN might stick around. (File photo)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Adding to previous reports about ArriveCAN possibly becoming a permanent fixture, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino on Tuesday (June 28) told media that the platform may be utilized beyond the pandemic.

Making remarks while touring The CBSA Commercial Inspection Facility near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, ON, Minister Mendicino said compliance with ArriveCAN is high. He also said it is helping reduce delays at the border.

“ArriveCAN was originally created for the purposes of COVID-19, but it has technological capacity beyond that to really shrink the amount of time that is required when you're getting screened at the border,” Mendicino said, as reported by CTV News.

Mendicino did not clarify if ArriveCAN would remain a mandatory requirement for entering Canada, but said that “statistics reveal that well over 90 per cent of people are complying with the ArriveCAN and so once you do that initial upload, it's very fast and very efficient.”

The federal government is trying to improve the experience for travellers as the busy summer season ramps up, the Minister said.

“Technology is a positive way in which you can decrease the amount of time that is that is required to clear customs and border at border checkpoints,” Mendicino said. “And we'll continue to do that constructively and collaboratively taking all of the feedback that we get from our border communities.”

But not everyone agrees with that sentiment.

Border mayors, small businesses and travel industry advocates believe the mandatory smartphone and desktop-based application that requires travellers to report their trips, vaccination status and health conditions before entering Canada should be turfed altogether.

READ MORE: Ottawa will likely keep ArriveCAN, ACTA says; advocacy plans shared at town hall

Some argue the app, introduced in 2020, is hurting cross-border tourism communities, while others say it’s difficult to use (there are seniors, for example, who may not know what an app is).

And as COVID-19 vaccination rates in Canada rank high and as Ottawa lifts more travel restrictions, the consequences for failing to fill out ArriveCAN’s myriad of questions seem unreasonably harsh.

The government says that if you attempt to enter Canada without completing ArriveCAN, you could be forced into quarantine for 14 days or fined $5,000. That's even if you're fully vaccinated. 

An “unnecessary vulnerability”

Yesterday, politicians in the Windsor area continued calls to scrap the app.

Speaking to CTV, Windsor West MP Brian Masse said the reliance on technology has gone too far and blamed ArriveCAN for causing border delays.

Calls to scrap the app at Canada's borders continue. (File photo/Oksana.Perkins/Shutterstock)

“We even see it here when there's actually a breakdown on the system,” Masse said. “That's where you get the lineups going blocks upon blocks is mostly because of the system being down. And this is just an unnecessary vulnerability for ourselves and again, doesn't make us any safer because the officers can check the vaccination status just was quick with the paperwork versus out of actually fooling around with a phone.”

READ MORE: Border mayors, MPs call on Ottawa to ditch ArriveCAN, saying it deters tourists

At the annual Jay Treaty Border Alliance conference in Windsor Tuesday, Chief Charles Sampson of Walpole Island First Nation told CTV that many believe the app doesn’t make sense.

“I feel that it is a redundant technology that is not utilized on the American side,” Sampson said, “And I think it makes no sense.”

"They may not get rid of it whatsoever"

That same day, changes to ArriveCAN kicked in to make travel “faster and easier,” according to federal officials.

Effective yesterday (June 28), travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson or Vancouver Airports can save time by using an Advance CBSA Declaration optional feature in ArriveCAN to submit their customs and immigration declaration in advance of arrival.

Minister Mendicino’s comments confirm previous ArriveCAN predictions made by the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).

At a recent town hall meeting, ACTA implied that the app will likely stay active for a while.

“What we’re hearing is that the government loves ArriveCAN and that they may not get rid of it whatsoever,” said Avery Campbell, ACTA’s director of advocacy and industry relations on June 20.

“There will be a transition from ArriveCAN being a COVID-19 product to a product that streamlines border entry and makes the airport experience more efficient."

“That’s what we’re advocating for – take a tool the government loves that we don’t think they’re going to get rid of, but make it an efficient tool to make the travel experience better.”

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