US Congresswoman Calls on Canada to Drop ArriveCAN App

US Congresswoman Calls on Canada to Drop ArriveCAN App
A person holds a smartphone set to the opening screen of the ArriveCAN app in a photo illustration made in Toronto on June 29, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Giordano Ciampini)
Isaac Teo

A U.S. congresswoman who represents a border district in New York state is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to end the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app for those seeking to enter Canada.

Elise Stefanik, a Republican representative for New York’s 21st District, says the app has disrupted travel from the United States to Canada and damaged cross-border tourism and commerce between the two countries.
“We should be working to further develop our partnership, not inhibit its success with misguided burdens such as the Canadian government’s mandated use of the ArriveCAN app,” said Stefanik in her Aug. 18 letter to Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

“This requirement disincentivizes travel, harms the flow of commerce, and burdens travelers with the submission of private health information.”

Three days before Stefanik's letter, a coalition of Canadian chambers of commerce also demanded that the federal government scrap the app, including ending all remaining COVID-related border restrictions.

“It isn’t only affecting the tourism industry,” said Rakesh Naidu, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, in a joint press release on Aug. 12.

“More than half of the total trade Canada conducts with the United States is by truck. The additional time and resources spent on border measures and the ArriveCAN app slows the crossing for all and puts additional strain on already stretched supply chains.”

Launched by the federal government in November 2020, the ArriveCAN app was created as a COVID-19 screening measure that ensures incoming travellers are vaccinated and to facilitate contact tracing.
Refusing to use the app to provide required information, such as contact information, travel documents and plans, and proof of vaccination, can result in a fine of up to $5,000 under the Quarantine Act.
In June, the Liberal government announced that the app would remain mandatory until at least Sept. 30. Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has indicated that ArriveCAN will outlast the pandemic as part of a strategy that aims to shrink border bottlenecks.

‘Significant’ Backlogs, Long Wait Times

Stefanik says the app creates “significant backlogs” at Canadian customs.

“Those crossing the border are often unfamiliar with the ArriveCAN app’s burdensome requirements and do not complete them until arrival at a Canadian port of entry,” she wrote.

“As a result, travelers are choosing to stay home rather than face long wait times and frustrations caused by the ArriveCAN app.”

MPs on the House of Commons transport committee similarly took the matter up on Aug. 8 by unanimously passing a motion asking Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to testify before them to address the ArriveCAN system and airport delays.
In his testimony before the committee on Aug. 19, Alghabra defended the app, blaming COVID-19 as the culprit for airport delays.

Several Conservative MPs focused their lines of questioning on the ArriveCAN app, but Alghabra said the app has helped reduce wait times by digitizing the process.

A glitch with the application last month led to over 10,000 vaccinated travellers being told to quarantine when they didn’t have to.

The group of border chambers of commerce, which include Greater Kingston, Sarnia Lambton, and Greater Niagara Chambers of Commerce in Ontario among others, say visitors from the United States are “still down significantly” across Canada.

“Wait times at land border crossings have lengthened by up to two hours since 2019 despite traffic being cut in half, and bridge authorities attribute this entirely to restrictions and the ArriveCAN app,” the coalition said.

“The average processing time for arriving passengers at airports has increased by 400 percent.”

‘No Public Health Purpose’

In mid-June, a group of mayors from Canadian border towns said at a virtual press conference that the Liberal government’s pandemic travel rules have been devastating their communities.

“Here in Niagara, 40,000 people count on tourism to feed their families. We’ve always said ‘follow the science.’ Well, the scientists are telling us now there’s no reason to have the ArriveCAN app,” Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said at the time.

Stefanik told Hillman that the app “serves no public health purpose” and only plays detrimental roles in commerce and traffic flow at borders.

“I urge you and the Canadian Government to cease this app’s harmful impacts on our border communities and immediately halt its required use,” she said.

The Epoch Times reached out to Hillman’s office but did not receive a reply by publication time.

Noé Chartier and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.