Tag Archives: ArriveCAN

CIU National President meets with Public Safety Minister

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On Friday, August 5, 2022, National President Mark Weber met with the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, to discuss ongoing issues affecting CIU members and border services across the country.

During this first meeting with the Minister, Mark Weber highlighted several areas of concern, ranging from the effects of the implementation of the ArriveCAN app and other automated processes on the work our members do, to the lack of consultation by CBSA’s upper echelons with frontline officers when it comes to policy and procedures. “All over the country, what we’re hearing from our members is that they are no longer doing the work they are trained to do to ensure the security of our borders” explained Weber to the Minister, adding that “CBSA’s plans are made by people who have never worked at the border” and that the Agency could only benefit from consulting with those who have first-hand experience with what works—and what doesn’t—on the frontline.

Minister Mendicino acknowledged that the last two years had been difficult for many, especially for those on the frontline, including border officers, and expressed his gratitude for the work CIU members do. The Minister further highlighted that he was keen on avoiding disconnects between people on the ground and decision makers and that he wished to maintain an open line of communication with the union moving forward.

This meeting, which took place on the eve of the anniversary date of last year’s ground-breaking FB mobilization, made it clear that the Minister is aware of the many issues CIU members are facing, and we are hopeful that this sets the stage for a constructive relationship between the union and the Ministry of Public Safety.

Urgent action needed to address border delays: Automation is not the solution

The situation at airports and ports of entry across the country continues to deteriorate, and it’s clear the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the federal government have no plan to get international travel back on track anytime soon.

While travellers returning to the country are piling up in airports and cars are lining up at ports of entry, the Government of Canada would rather double-down and expand the poorly-implemented ArriveCAN application than rely on the expertise of the border officers who have continued to serve the Canadian public throughout the pandemic.

At the same time, with too few officers across the country, CBSA prefers to introduce heavy-handed measures towards staff, such as imposing overtime and denying leave. Instead of finding effective long-term solutions, the Agency is further stretching an already thinned-out workforce with complete disregard for the impacts on workers’ mental and physical wellbeing. It also weakens border operations across the board when officers are pulled away from important security-oriented duties, such as intercepting dangerous goods.

Let’s be clear: These troubling staffing issues and considerable delays at the border have been years in the making. And at no point has the federal government—past or present—sought to consult the dedicated frontline officers on how to ensure smooth and efficient border processes.

If the government wants to get serious about avoiding lengthy delays and severe impacts on border security, tourism, and cross-border commercial activities for years to come, the solution is simple: Stop depending on inefficient automated technologies, hire more officers, and rely on their expertise.

We’ve been vocal about this: The government needs a long-term plan now, and automation is not the solution. The Customs and Immigration Union is set to meet with Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, in early August, and we’re hopeful he’ll listen.

In the meantime, sign the letter below to remind the government of the urgent action needed to give travellers and workers a much-needed reprieve.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

ArriveCAN: A step in the wrong direction

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On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, Mark Weber, testified in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade as part of their study the potential impacts of the ArriveCAN application on certain Canadian sectors, highlighting the negative consequences of the application on cross-border travel and on the duties of border officers.

In his opening statement to the Committee, National President Weber was unequivocal: As far as Border Officers are concerned, the last few months have shown that ArriveCAN neither facilitates travel nor does it improve operational efficiency. In fact, it does just the opposite.

“Every Border Officer working on the frontline will tell you that the implementation of the ArriveCan application has seen processing times skyrocket” testified Mark Weber, pushing back against misleading CBSA figures. “Where a port of entry processed 60 cars per hour before, it now processes 30, if not less. At land borders, as far as traveler operations go, this means cars waiting for hours, and sometimes being redirected to another port further away. At airports, this means travelers piling up in and outside the customs area. In all locations, it translates into a frustrating experience for all involved.”

CBSA continues to rely on inefficient automated technology

Answering questions from Committee members, National President Weber also explained that while ArriveCAN was introduced to collect public health data, the application itself made the process needlessly complicated, and that simpler solutions ought to be considered. More importantly, the implementation of ArriveCAN has forced Border Officers to act more as IT consultants than law enforcement officers, further compounding the perennial issue of chronic understaffing at all levels of border operations.

Weber also took aim at CBSA’s poor use of technology, pointing out that the application “follows the same pattern of over-reliance on automated technology we have seen before with Primary Inspection Kiosks” resulting in a less efficient and less secure border.

Ultimately, if the government and its agencies wish to facilitate cross-border travel along with the flow of commercial goods in a safe and secure way, then ArriveCAN is a step in the wrong direction. “Technology certainly has its place” said Weber, “but it should be used to help travelers and assist officers, and not hinder them. By that metric, ArriveCan simply does not work”.

A recording of the Committee proceedings can be viewed here.

Response to the Montreal Gazette

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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.