Travelling can be stressful and doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic can be confusing at times –– especially when there are other steps added to your travel to-do list like filling out information in ArriveCAN for Canadian travellers.
But even then there are some who are working through the technological obstacles of travelling during a pandemic.
Regina citizens Don Csada and his wife are just a couple of those travellers who have grown frustrated by the ArriveCAN website.
ArriveCAN, which is available either online or through a downloadable mobile app, requires Canadians travelling abroad to provide mandatory travel and public health information before and after their entry into Canada. The Government of Canada says ArriveCAN is “not only keeping travellers safe, but is part of our ongoing efforts to modernize cross-border travel.”
For the Csadas, it has created an issue for them considering they do not have mobile data for their phones and only have access to the internet through their computer at home.
“It’s just very frustrating and you can’t get any answers,” said Csada in an interview with Global News.
Csada said he and his wife, Caron, booked flights to Mexico this December prior to the implementation of the ArriveCAN app.
While they could get support from their family to help them fill out the required information prior to their flight to Mexico, they won’t have cellphones or a place where they can access the internet once they are at their destination.
Csada explained how this poses a problem for them since they will need to fill out the prompts again at least 72 hours before their flight home.
“There’s no accessibility, so what we’re trying to find out is there has got to be another way of being able to get back into Canada,” Csada said. “If we can’t use the app, how do we get back home? There has got to be an alternative for this if people don’t have a way to use technology.”
With their trip a few months away, Csada said he started making calls to see what options were at his disposal.
He mentioned how he called the support number for ArriveCAN twice. The end result was being hung up on during both calls.
Csada said he also reached out to politicians from multiple levels and other organizations hoping to reach a solution –– but without success.
Now, the couple is wondering what to do next –– whether to stick with their winter travel plans or to cancel their trip.
Csada said he hopes to raise awareness on this issue affecting seniors and others needing accessibility.
“This is not only my story. There are other seniors that are going to go through this as soon as they find out in the fall what they have to do to get back into Canada.”
The Government of Canada says traveller information collected using ArriveCAN is of higher quality and generally more accurate than information collected by other means, such as paper forms.
In a statement provided by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson to Global News, the government notes that without ArriveCAN, processing times for travellers would increase “significantly” since public health functions would need to be completed manually for each traveller by CBSA officers at the port of entry.
“ArriveCAN is the fastest, easiest and most secure way for travellers to show they meet public health requirements and is an essential tool for the CBSA to assess traveller compliance and to expedite traveller processing at the border,” the statement reads.
The government says it recognizes that some Canadians may not be prepared or aware of the requirement to use ArriveCAN.
As a result, the government introduced a new measure to address this issue.
“Since May 24, border services officers at land ports of entry have been able to apply a one-time exemption to fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and persons registered under the Indian Act, entering Canada, who have not completed their ArriveCAN submission,” the statement continues.
“This exemption allows the CBSA to provide more flexibly to travellers with no history of non-compliance, who may have been unaware of the requirement to submit their mandatory health information via ArriveCAN and means that the traveller, entering by land, will not be subject to quarantine, testing and fines for one time only. All travellers who are afforded this one-time exemption will be provided with information that explains their obligations regarding ArriveCAN for future border crossings.”
CBSA adds that after the one-time exemption, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act who do not submit their information through ArriveCAN will be subject to quarantine and testing, and may also face fines.
“Since this relief mechanism has been introduced in land mode, over 300,000 travellers have made use of it.”
However, the Canadian government’s website highlights that some travellers could be exempt from the ArriveCAN requirement due to an accessibility need.
The website says people who are not able to use ArriveCAN due to accessibility needs won’t be denied boarding or entry into Canada. Those who are exempt will need to be ready to show pre-entry test results, if required, proof of vaccination and travel documents.
“All incoming travellers to Canada must use ArriveCAN to submit their information. In some limited exceptions, you can use an alternative to ArriveCAN. You can provide your information verbally at the border, or by completing a paper form,” notes the ArriveCAN webpage.
Those exemptions include persons with cognitive or physical impairments, inadequate infrastructure, service disruptions or natural disasters such as ArriveCAN outages, asylum seekers and resettled refugees.
According to the statement, as of Aug. 10, 2022, more than 25.5 million submissions have been sent through ArriveCAN.