'Feels like I'm being punished': Confusion over ArriveCAN app forces Canadian travellers into quarantine
Several fully vaccinated Canadians have been forced to quarantine for two weeks after returning from day trips to the U.S. and failing to pre-register on the ArriveCAN app, a requirement for re-entry.
Last month, the federal government adjusted pandemic-era travel rules to allow fully vaccinated Canadians to re-enter the country within 72 hours without providing a negative PCR test, a decision widely celebrated by those who live near the U.S. border.
However, travellers are still required to submit mandatory information, including proof of vaccination, date of travel, and quarantine plan in the ArriveCAN app before returning to the Canadian border – leading to confusion for many returning from day trips.
“It feels like I’m being punished for not being able to navigate the ArriveCAN app,” Surrey, B.C. resident Martin Turo told CTV Vancouver Friday.
On Thursday, Turo crossed the border to pick up a package in Blaine, Wash. Although he registered his trip on the ArriveCAN app, the 70-year-old, who admits he is not tech-savvy, could not figure out how to upload his vaccine details.
“I brought that vaccine passport with me and (the border guard) didn’t even want to look at it,” said Turo.
Turo is now under a 14-day quarantine order, despite having two COVID-19 vaccinations plus a booster shot, and only spending 30 minutes south of the border.
Similarly, Rick Minchin and his wife spent four hours in Blaine on Tuesday, before heading back to New Westminster, B.C., through the Pacific Highway border crossing. Unaware of the ArriveCAN app requirements, the couple were mandated to quarantine by the border official they spoke with.
“We tried to discuss with him: 'Can we turn around? Is there anything else we can do?' He basically said ‘no,’” explained Minchin.
Toronto-area woman Laurie Fonseca was also slapped with a quarantine order after spending just seven hours shopping across the border in Buffalo, N.Y.
“It was like being kicked in the gut,” Fonseca told CTV News Toronto on Thursday. “I'm basically bound in my house for 14 days and I'm a Canadian citizen, fully vaccinated — this makes absolutely no sense to me.”
Fonseca says she asked the CBSA officer whether she could park her car and fill out the registration then but was denied.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, many Canadians have failed to register their trips on the app since the new rules came into effect on Nov. 30. Yet, while some travellers CTV News spoke to have been permitted to turn around, download the app and return to the border, not everyone has been given that opportunity.
“Subjectivity is the hallmark of arriving at the Canadian border,” Ryan Neely, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, told CTV Vancouver. “It’s more an officer’s decision if they want to send you away and give you time to fill out that app.”
Use of the app has drawn criticism from those who worry seniors and Canadians with disabilities may not be able to navigate the app.
The federal government notes that if you have accessibility needs or a compatible smartphone, you can submit your information through the browser version of ArriveCAN on any computer.
According to the ArriveCAN website, the government is working to make the mobile app accessible, adding, “if you aren't able to use ArriveCAN due to accessibility needs, you won’t be denied boarding or entry into Canada.”
However, the website also notes that travellers who do not check in using the ArriveCAN feature may face delays due to additional questioning and potentially "be subject to enforcement action."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
The ArriveCAN app is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. The ArriveCAN iPhone app is compatible with any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running iOS 12.0 or later. On Android, the app requires Android version 6.0 or newer.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be asked to submit mandatory information including proof of vaccination, date of travel, and quarantine plan. This must be done before you arrive at the border to re-enter Canada.
Upon arrival, a Canadian Border Services officer will ask to see your ArriveCAN receipt. If you're not carrying a smartphone or other device, be sure to have a printout of your ArriveCAN receipt ready.
Additional information about the ArriveCAN app can be found here.
- With files from Adam Frisk, Tom Yun, CTV Vancouver and CTV Toronto