Feds Quietly Allowing ArriveCAN App Exemptions at the Border

Feds Quietly Relax ArriveCAN App Requirements at the Border

The federal government quietly implemented a one-time ArriveCAN exception for travellers crossing into Canada by land — reports The National Post.

Every individual coming into Canada is required to provide their personal and vaccination information on the ArriveCAN app for their border crossing to be processed. However, border agents may excuse land travellers from the requirement, but for one time only.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said these “temporary” exemptions are intended to “provide more flexibility” for fully vaccinated travellers “who may have been unaware of the requirement to submit their mandatory health information via ArriveCAN.”

Ottawa originally made the change in May for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as first uncovered by Radio-Canada. The federal government never announced the change and the CBSA website does not mention this either.

The leniency was extended to all foreign nationals, including Americans, in July. Last month, the CBSA said that up to 40% of travellers weren’t filling up the ArriveCAN app anyway.

“After this one-time exemption, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act who do not submit their information through ArriveCAN will be subject to quarantine and testing and may also face fines,” Gadbois-St-Cyr added.

Foreign nationals who don’t fill the app, on the other hand, will be denied entry into Canada. Numbers from the CBSA indicate that 308,800 travellers out of a total of 5,086,187 took advantage of this one-time exemption between May 24 and August 4.

According to Richard Savage, who heads the union that represents border workers, Ottawa’s stealthy rule change has reduced delays at the border. “The one-time mulligan has released our officers from being IT consultants almost 100% of their day to allowing them to go do the jobs that they’re trained to do,” he said.

Travellers who receive an ArriveCAN exemption at the border are informed that their one-time free pass will be recorded, so they cannot take advantage of it again. They are also provided with an information package explaining what ArriveCan is and how to fill it out.

The feds previously announced that the app will be mandatory through at least September 30. However, comments from Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino have suggested that Ottawa might keep it around as a pre-customs screening tool ever after the pandemic.

“That is honestly not a decision the government has made,” one government source told The National Post. “We’re currently weighing options before us in terms of what we can do with that long term.”

ArriveCAN has caught a lot of flak as of late, being accused of discouraging tourism and harming businesses in border communities.

Things didn’t get any better when the app sent erroneous quarantine orders to fully-vaccinated travellers last month. Some privacy experts have even questioned if ArriveCAN violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.