ArriveCan App Remains Cause of Border Delays, Says Union Head

Travel chaos continues in Canada at airports and other points of entry, as volumes have surged after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Canadian airports such as Pearson International in Toronto are seeing unprecedented delays, due to a lack of staff and the required ArriveCan app for entering the country.

While we’ve heard of calls for the ArriveCan app to be removed, the latter continues to cause delays at borders for customs agents, says the head of the Customs and Immigration Union.

President of the union, Mark Weber, told The Globe and Mail, “what we’re seeing specifically on the customs side is really long delays for travellers to clear customs when they’re coming into the country.”

He noted severe staff shortages plus the ArriveCan app itself, as once again being the culprit for delays. The app takes “quite a bit of time” for travellers to fill out, while it’s also difficult for non-tech savvy folks to use. ArriveCan also still asks travellers for the address of where they are staying, despite no contact tracing being required anymore.

Canadian airports are now “an international embarrassment,” according to Melissa Lantsman, Conservative transport critic “Conservatives continue to call for a return to prepandemic travel rules and staffing levels to help alleviate the delays and disarray we continue to see at Canada’s airports, including ending the mandatory usage of the ArriveCan app,” she said.

The NDP also noted Liberal government failed to hire enough staff ahead of the return of travel, after COVID-19 restrictions were removed.

Despite the criticism, the federal government says the ArriveCan app is not causing delays, but is actually making travel “easier and more efficient, allowing those entering Canada to electronically submit their information before arriving at the border,” according to a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, pointing out app usage is “extremely high” and internal stats show 99.7% of air travellers use the app, with land usage similarly high at 94%.

Back in June, Weber told a House of Commons committee the stats provided above by the government on the ArriveCan app are “absolutely false.”

“As far as border officers are concerned, the last few months have shown that ArriveCAN neither facilitates cross-border travel nor does it improve operational efficiency. In fact, it does exactly the opposite,” said Weber at the time.

But, the spokesperson for the Public Safety Minister told the Globe, “from too many flights to not enough staff, there is no single reason for these delays – but the ArriveCan app is not a major factor,” pointing out that travel volumes are surging globally, not just in Canada. So it’s just in your head, folks.

Recently, the federal government added the Advance CBSA Declaration feature to the ArriveCan app, a tool that was previously only available on the web. The advance declaration feature is only available at two locations in Canada: Toronto Pearson and Vancouver International airports.