ArriveCan app blocks parade plans for N.B.-Maine festival

Hopes for the return of a beloved international tradition between St. Stephen, N.B., and Calais, Maine, have once again been sidelined due to pandemic land border restrictions.

A parade between both communities had been a flagship part of the International Homecoming Festival since 1974. Restrictions against non-essential land border crossings stopped the two-country procession from going forward in 2020 and 2021.

Several land border restrictions have lifted this summer, but the lingering requirement of the ArriveCan app is once again preventing a parade.

“It just wasn’t feasible to do so with the ArriveCan app,” said Tammy Anderson, the International Homecoming Festival’s committee chair for Canada. “To come back and forth across the border at this time is difficult because of ArriveCan.”

Other events for the 2022 International Homecoming Festival are being scheduled for five days from Aug. 3 to 7.

“We hope that both sides of our communities celebrate together at the different things happening,” said Anderson.

Last week, the Canadian government said ArriveCan requirements would remain in effect at the Canadian border until at least Sept. 30. 

Carole Smith, a lifelong resident of Calais, said it was disappointing to approach another festival without the once enduring parade.

“I’m going to miss it, I’m really going to miss it,” said Smith. “It’s always been a part of what has gone on for years and it seems like there’s a lot of things that just sort of fade away.”

Prior to the pandemic, the parade’s last major obstacle had been maneuvering through heightened security measures and the eventual requirement of passports, post-9/11.

Last year, the only festival event shared simultaneously between both St. Stephen and Calais was the fireworks presentation over the St. Croix River.

THE FUTURE OF ARRIVECAN

With ArriveCan, any person arriving at a Canadian border must have their vaccine information and travel documents uploaded to an online form.

Several travellers who’ve arrived at the Canadian border without ArriveCan information submitted have been turned around and told to return once the form was completed. 

The federal government said Canadian residents who don’t complete an ArriveCan form may be subject to a COVID-19 test before entering the country, with another test on the eighth day of their 14-day quarantine, regardless of vaccine status. Foreign nationals may be denied entry without a completed ArriveCAN form and any traveller who failed to submit their information and proof of vaccination using ArriveCAN may be fined $5,000.

Mayors along the Canada-U.S. border and tourism industry leaders have called for the Canadian government to remove ArriveCan requirements. 

Last week, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino said ArriveCan may be applied beyond the pandemic. Mendicino said the forms helped reduce border delays and added compliance had been high.