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Long after the much-despised ArriveCan app ceased making any kind of epidemiological sense whatsoever, the Trudeau government appears poised to finally decree that it will no longer be a mandatory requirement to enter Canada.
Federal sources have confirmed to the National Post that mandatory use of ArriveCan could be suspended as of Sept. 30, although a final decision will come Thursday.
“Good news, but all outdated, unscientific measures should be dropped,” Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said in a Tuesday reaction to the news.
The sudden decision comes after months of concerted non-partisan international criticism accusing ArriveCan of everything from violating basic civil liberties to discriminating against the infirm to inflicting irreversible damage on the Canadian tourism economy.
Over the summer, opposition to ArriveCan became a rare issue uniting all sides of the political spectrum in both the United States and Canada. Since May, the app has attracted open condemnation from elected politicians representing the NDP, the Conservative Party and both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States.
“Apps should be designed to make our lives easier…. But they should never be a mandatory part of our lives,” reads a recent statement by Ontario NDP MP Carol Hughes.
Tony Baldinelli, the Conservative MP for Niagara Falls, has been slightly more blunt in calling ArriveCan a “disaster,” a “mess” and the prime suspect in a “self-inflicted” loss of expected Canadian revenue from the 2022 tourist season.
In the U.S., Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins has called ArriveCan a “redundant” obstacle. “At a time when most people are getting back to a semblance of normality, the border communities in the U.S. and Canada are not nearly where they should be,” he said in July, citing data showing that cross-border vehicle traffic was still just half of what it was before COVID-19.
On the Republican side of the aisle, in August, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik accused ArriveCan of being a “misguided burden.”
All the while, an ever-growing coalition of mayors, businesses and non-profits have accused ArriveCan not only of economic damage, but of destroying the cross-border polity they once shared with their American neighbours.
This week, critics in the Yukon Legislative Assembly accused the app of taking a scythe to their territory’s normally close ties with the U.S. state of Alaska. “Should issues persist with the ArriveCan app, I believe its use should be discontinued,” Yukon Tourism Minister Ranj Pillai told the Whitehorse Star.
On top of everything, whatever utility the app once held as a screening measure has been irrelevant since at least the spring.
In June, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos warned that the initial two-dose round of the COVID vaccine was of limited effectiveness against the transmission of newer and more infectious COVID variants. “The immunity conferred by a primary series of vaccines administered in 2021 has now waned,” he said.
And yet, right up until the app’s mandatory use is suspended on Sept. 30, its near-exclusive function will be to confirm only that travellers have completed a two-dose vaccination regime.
The increased transmissibility of new COVID variants has also meant that the virus has now been found to spread just as liberally among vaccinated individuals as among the unvaccinated. Given this, “the current evidence suggests that current mandatory vaccination policies might need to be reconsidered,” reads a January article published in The Lancet.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore was echoing the sentiment in February. “The vaccine isn’t providing significant benefit at two doses against the risk of transmission, as compared to someone unvaccinated,” said Moore, before suggesting that Canada should “reassess the value” of vaccine passports.
This is why many of Canada’s peer countries have dropped border screening altogether on the grounds that it is no longer a useful public health tool. The U.K. dropped all its border screening measures in March. Even New Zealand — which once imposed some of the harshest quarantine measures in the free world — dropped virtually all vaccine and mask mandates last week.
Despite all this, the Trudeau government has consistently defended ArriveCan as a miracle tool that is both critical to public health and innocent of any charges that it was contributing to record-breaking delays at Canadian airports and border crossings.
Liberal MP Pam Damoff has repeatedly called ArriveCan an “essential and intuitive” tool whenever its usage was questioned in the House of Commons.
Just last month, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told a House of Commons committee that ArriveCan was actually helping to alleviate delays at border crossings. “There is no evidence whatsoever that ArriveCan is causing any problems,” he said.
Alghabra and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino have also repeatedly cited high compliance statistics as evidence that the app was being embraced by the general public.
“Use of ArriveCan is extremely high — according to our most recent statistics, it was successfully used by 99.52 per cent of those travelling by air and 89.20 per cent of those travelling by land,” a spokesperson for Mendicino’s office said in July.
Left unsaid is that failure to complete ArriveCan can result in fines of $5,000 and mandatory 14-day quarantine — a factor that is likely having some effect on driving up compliance rates. And even then, the accuracy of the numbers have been consistently denied by the federal workers actually tasked with ensuring ArriveCan compliance.
Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, told Postmedia in July that up to 40 per cent of travellers showing up at Canadian border crossings had failed to fully complete their ArriveCan submission.
“The reality is that a lot of our officers’ time is just taken up helping people complete the app,” he said.
Notably, the sudden federal decision to drop ArriveCan comes only days before federal lawyers were scheduled to defend the app’s constitutionality in open court.
Last month, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms launched a legal challenge in Federal Court arguing, among other things, that the mandatory use of ArriveCan violated the constitutional right to “enter, remain in and leave Canada.”
How Canada stupidly bet its border economy on ArriveCAN — a glitchy $25M app
What happens if you just ignore ArriveCan?
IN OTHER NEWS
As Ukraine continue their stunning advance against Russian forces in the country’s east, Kyiv has submitted a new wish list of weapons to Canada. According to sources from the Department of National Defence who spoke to CBC, the Ukrainians are asking for more armoured personnel carriers, more howitzers, more artillery shells and some winter clothing. Canada has actually been pretty good at sending weapons to Ukraine, and ranks as one of the top five contributors of military hardware to the embattled country. Although naturally, the effort to arm Ukraine has been utterly dominated by the United States: The Americans have sent more guns, drones and missiles than every other donor combined.
Even with the House of Commons back in session, it appears that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deftly be able to avoid at least two weeks of Question Period largely by lingering at overseas funerals. After spending the weekend in London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, he boarded an RCAF jet directly to New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly, after which he’ll immediately show up early in Japan for the funeral of assassinated former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Provided he doesn’t find any other foreign commitments that require his attention, Trudeau should be out of the country until at least October.
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