Response to the Montreal Gazette

December 9, 2021
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The following was sent by the CIU National President to the Montreal Gazette’s Editor in response to the article ‘Confusion swirls around ArriveCAN app and its use at the Canadian-U.S. border’, published Dec. 7, 2021.

In a perplexing article, the Montreal Gazette was recently reporting that the federal government was “reining in overzealous border guards” who had “ordered fully vaccinated Canadian travellers to spend 14 days in quarantine for failing to properly fill out the ArriveCAN application.”

Border Officers, who are expected to perform their duties according to the appropriate directives, do not draft public safety or public health policies, do not issue Emergency Orders in Council, and certainly do not design applications for travellers.

That is not to say that the process of entering Canada, made more complex by new policies issued in response to the ever-evolving pandemic, won’t be a source of confusion for some travellers. But it would be woefully misguided to blame Border Officers for a situation they have ultimately no control over, and to do so is to miss the target.

Indeed, officers do not have any leeway or discretionary powers when it comes to applying Orders in Council, and the order issued prior to December 7 essentially boiled down to: Travellers had to complete the ArriveCAN app prior to entering Canada via a land border port of entry, or they would need to quarantine for 14 days.

The above is not due to any ‘overzealousness’ on the part of officers. It is an order issued by the Canadian government, to be applied to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status. Moreover, while this can lead to frustrating situations, the order was phrased in a way that left no room for officers to accommodate travellers. This is of course compounded by the chronic understaffing of border services in general, meaning ports are not as efficient as they could be.

So, where does this leave travellers arriving in Canada? At time of writing, following updated directives issued earlier this week, the situation remains the following:

  • Travellers are still expected to fill the ArriveCAN app ahead of arrival. This is still mandatory.
  • As was previously the case, travellers who have not filled out ArriveCAN ahead of time can return to the U.S. to do so, and then re-enter Canada.
  • Conditions permitting, travellers can now fill out ArriveCAN once at a land border port, although that may not always be operationally feasible.
  • Travellers who proceed beyond the port of entry without completing the ArriveCAN app will still be required to quarantine.

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