A Winnipeg woman says she was forced to quarantine after returning to Canada from a U.S. vacation despite having two vaccines and a booster, a negative PCR test, and all of her paperwork.
Debi Ellement was returning from a trip to Arizona with her husband Mark earlier this month, and expected a smooth crossing at the border, but an issue with her ArriveCAN app caused unexpected problems.
“I had uploaded our passports and our vaccination data to the app before I left town, and I took copies of our vaccination reports with us, because I’d heard there were issues,” she told Global News.
“I got my husband’s arrival information in, and he got his QR code … and I realized it didn’t take mine. I couldn’t get my information in the app.”
Ellement said there were no relevant ‘help’ options on the ArriveCAN app to navigate the problem, but since she had all of the necessary documents in physical form, she wasn’t expecting an issue.
“When I got to the border, the border guard took our passports and he took our negative test information, and he looked at Mark’s QR code and said, ‘Where’s yours?’”
He gave her the choice to go back to the States or face 14 days quarantine in Canada.
“I was quite stunned. I have everything I need to cross the border. I’ve got my vaxx papers in my hand.”
According to Ellement, the officer refused to help her with the app, and when she asked if there was someone else in the border office who could help, he gave her the same answer.
“This guy told me I was a threat to Canada because I couldn’t use an app.”
Although Ellement’s two-week quarantine ended Friday, she says she’s concerned other Canadians will encounter the same difficulties when it comes to relying on the app.
“I’m disheartened, I’m disillusioned, frustrated … there was nobody to appeal to. I did all the things they said to do, I did the tests. They were all negative. And there was just no recourse. This is just not right.
“Maybe I’m the one who caused the problem. I don’t know, but it’s a computer app. I’m a Canadian citizen, with all of the requirements to enter my country.
“I asked that young man to help, and that was a big fat no… I say scrap the app. It’s stupid. You’re not keeping Canada safe from people who can’t use a computer.”
Ellement said she was able to handle the quarantine, although she was frustrated to be stuck in the house for two weeks unnecessarily. Her husband, who she spent the entire trip with, and had the same test results, wasn’t under the same restrictions.
“I’ve been kind of up and down, feeling very futile on occasion. It’s Winnipeg, it’s winter, but it’s been very difficult knowing I can’t go out of the house. I couldn’t see my granddaughter and that’s a big one for me.
“I want the people who are coming home to be able to come home without quarantining because they couldn’t do the computer app,” she said. “If they meet all the requirements to come to Canada, what are we doing?
A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told Global News that border officers have some options to help Canadians traveling by land to use the app.
“They can help land travelers comply with the requirement to submit their information digitally by allowing the traveller to return to the U.S. to take the time to complete the ArriveCAN form and re-enter Canada after submitting it,” the spokesperson said.
“Also, where operations make it possible to do so, they can allow the traveler to complete their ArriveCAN submission upon arrival at ports of entry.”
The federal government requires all Canadian travelers use the ArriveCAN app, with very limited exceptions.
Information can be provided verbally at the border or completing a paper form if you’re a person with accessibility needs who can’t access the app or there’s no Internet access on a country-level in the location you’re travelling from.
Special exceptions also apply to refugees and asylum seekers.
For those Canadians who don’t have access a smartphone or the app, there’s an alternate option. A lesser-known web version of ArriveCAN exists and can be accessed on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, etc.
Global News has reached out to the federal public safety minister for comment.