What you need to know about the ArriveCAN app that is dividing Canada

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Ottawa plans to expand the capabilities of its ArriveCAN app even as criticism continues to mount over the mandatory online data entry system for travelers entering the country.

Earlier this week, Transport Canada has provided an update about its plans to improve the app, including adding an optional CBSA online pre-declaration feature for people traveling to international airports in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Billy Bishop Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec and Halifax.

This feature, which Transport Canada says cuts the time travelers spend at a Canada Border Services Agency kiosk by a third, is currently only available to those transiting through Toronto Pearson International Airports. , Vancouver or Montreal-Trudeau.

“With the thousands of travelers arriving at Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal airports each day, using the CBSA’s optional advance declaration has the potential to save hours of waiting,” according to the Transport Canada release. .

While Ottawa has no plans to scrap the app, here’s a reminder on how it works, why it’s in place, and who’s for and against its continued use.

Why was it set up?

Although the app was introduced earlier in the pandemicthe version of ArriveCAN that people know today launched in July 2021, when Canada began easing public health restrictions on people entering Canada. Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents crossing the border were no longer required to quarantine upon their return.

But Canada still wanted a way to report people’s vaccination statuses and the COVID-19 results of a recent test. The app allowed travelers to take a photo or upload a snapshot of their vaccine documentation into the app before going through customs.

How is it going today?

Canada has lifted most of its travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, including the requirement for domestic travelers to show proof of vaccination when traveling by train or plane.

But regardless of their vaccination status, all travelers entering Canada are required to submit their information to the ArriveCAN app – or the website version if they don’t have a smartphone – up to 72 hours before arriving. to enter Canada.

When travelers have finished entering their information, they are emailed a receipt to show to a Canadian border official upon arrival, along with their COVID-19 test results and any vaccination documentation.

The application was not without problems. Last month, Public Safety Canada acknowledged a glitch had incorrectly told some travelers to self-quarantine when in fact they didn’t have to.

What are the potential penalties for non-compliance?

Travelers who do not provide the required information will not be refused entry, but may face a 14-day quarantine, the need to take a COVID-19 test on arrival and a follow-up test eight days later.

They can also be fined $5,000 and face “additional delays at the border for public health questioning.” according to ArriveCAN main information page from Canada.

In someone exempt from using ArriveCAN?

Yes, including people who cannot access the app or website due to cognitive or physical impairments.

Instead, they can provide the information verbally at the border or by filling out a paper form.

The exemption also applies to people who are unable to complete information online due to natural disaster, censorship, lack of internet access or ArriveCAN outage.

There is also wiggle room for some people at land border crossings.

As of May 24, “to allow for more flexibility,” the Canada Border Services Agency began letting fully vaccinated Canadian land travelers leave with a warning the first time they neglect to complete the application if they had no history of non-compliance.

The union representing border workers told CBC News last month that between 30 and 40 per cent of travelers entering Canada at Windsor, Ont., had not completed the application before arriving.

Who is against?

Mayors of border towns have said the app is a barrier for tourists wishing to enter Canada and for trade.

Other politicians – including Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates Jean Charest, Pierre Poilievre, Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison – have called for the app to be removed, saying it creates headaches for some travelers and contributes to airport delays.

In a tweet last month, Poilievre called on Canada to “stop imposing ArriveCAN on people” and “restore sanity to our airports.” The tweet included a video, which CBC News has not verified, of an elderly person without a cellphone calling out the “bureaucracy going crazy” app while at a Toronto airport.

Lewis more recently called the app a “surveillance experiment” that needs to end.

Who wants the app to stay?

MP Taylor Bachrach, NDP transportation critic, said ArriveCAN continues to play “an important role” in helping to screen international arrivals for new variants and verifying that visitors to Canada are fully vaccinated. to protect the country’s health system.

“But the government needs to make the app work as intended to reduce wait times at airports and border crossings as promised,” Bachrach said in a statement.

The government also needs to better reach out to people who cannot use the online application for accessibility reasons, he added.

“It’s totally inappropriate for customs officers to act as IT technicians while troubleshooting travellers’ technology issues,” he said.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May said she found the app useful and easy to use on her travels.

“The recent glitch, on the other hand, demonstrates a serious problem in terms of privacy breaches,” she said in a statement.

What does the government have to say about this?

In its news release earlier this week, Transport Canada said 1,600 Canadian Air Transport Security Authority security screening officers have been hired across Canada since April, while 30 new customs inspection kiosks have recently added to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

In its own statement to CBC News, the CBSA said 99.53% of air travelers used ArrivedCAN in the week ending July 17, according to the most recent data available.

Millions of people have used the app without issue, the spokesperson added.

“Without ArriveCAN, traveler processing times would increase significantly, as these public health functions would have to be completed manually for each traveler by CBSA officers at the port of entry.”

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