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Will Canada soon lift its ArriveCan requirement? UND expert says he thinks so

The digital application allows travelers to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination and other mandatory travel information to the Canada Border Services Agency within 72 hours of crossing the border, either through the free ArriveCan mobile app or on the CBSA website.

South Junction border crossing.jpg
A vehicle pulling a boat awaits inspection before entry to Canada on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, at the South Junction, Manitoba, border crossing north of Roseau, Minnesota.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Nothing has been announced, but a UND instructor with a background in Canadian issues says he wouldn’t be surprised if Canada dropped its digital ArriveCan app as a requirement – at least for entering the country by land – when new border-crossing measures are announced later this month.

ArriveCan has been mandatory for entering Canada since the country reopened its border to qualified vaccinated travelers July 5, 2021, and to nonessential vaccinated travelers on Aug. 9, 2021.

Under border-crossing measures announced June 29 by the Public Health Agency of Canada, ArriveCan is mandatory until at least Sept. 30 for all travelers entering the country, whether by air, land or water. The digital application allows travelers to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination and other mandatory travel information to the Canada Border Services Agency within 72 hours of crossing the border, either through the free ArriveCan mobile app or on the CBSA website.

Both platforms require travelers to first set up an ArriveCan account. The app has been unpopular and controversial among visitors and Canadian residents.

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“The need for the ArriveCan app, at least at land border crossings, seems to have gone away,” said Robert Warren, who teaches in UND’s Marketing Department and has dual Canada-U.S. citizenship. “My thinking is that they have to get rid of it.”

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Robert Warren mugshot.jpg
Robert Warren, UND marketing instructor.
Contributed/UND

Warren, who talked about ArriveCan in late August during a quarterly Business Advisory Group meeting hosted by the Herald and the Chamber, said he bases his thoughts about ArriveCan on three factors: A recent open letter from New York state and federal representatives to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying ArriveCan is harming trade and tourism; a similar statement from a coalition of Canadian Chambers of Commerce representing border communities across Canada; and, lastly, the fact that COVID numbers seem to have stabilized in Canada.

“The other thing is, there have been several reports in Canada produced by the government themselves saying (ArriveCan) is not accomplishing its goals,” Warren said. Critics say the app is glitchy, it doesn’t speed up the flow of travelers as advertised and ultimately is harmful to Canada’s economy.

“You put all that together, I think they’re going to say at the end of September, ‘Yeah, you know what – we’re going to let it lapse on the land border,’” Warren said. “I think they’ll still keep it for travelers coming by air.”

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A screen shot of an ArriveCan receipt, submitted for entering Canada at Rainy River, Ontario, on Aug. 10, 2022.
Brad Dokken/Grand Forks Herald

Gerry Cariou, executive director of the Sunset Country Travel Association in Kenora, Ont., said he hasn’t heard any rumors about ArriveCan going away as a requirement for crossing the border.

“I know they are pushing to have it removed,” Cariou said. “The government is getting a lot of bad press about it from the tourism industry.”

In talking with people around Grand Forks, Warren says the majority who want to go to Canada change their mind as soon as they find out about ArriveCan. Many people, he says, just aren’t comfortable with technology – especially technology with a reputation for being glitchy.

“What it does is it kills the traffic between real border communities,” Warren said. “If you put something in that they see as making their life more difficult, they’re likely to balk. Both sides need people to make those trips. If (ArriveCan is) not providing the information they need, if it’s causing more headaches, I’d get rid of it.

“So, I think that they need to take a look at that seriously because that’s hampering economic development on both sides of the border.”

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There also is a rumor that Trudeau, as leader of the ruling Liberal Party, wants to call a federal election this fall to take advantage of instability in the opposition Conservative Party’s leadership, Warren says. Under Canada’s parliamentary system of government, the prime minister can call an election with as little as six weeks’ notice.

Lifting the ArriveCan requirement could appease the electorate and win points for Trudeau, Warren says.

“Canada, economically, is not in as good a shape as we are here, so the last thing I’d want to do if I were the Liberals is make that problem worse as I’m getting ready to go into an election campaign,” he said.

Less likely, Warren says, is the prospect of Canada lifting its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, another major barrier to nonessential cross-border travel.

“I don’t think they’re likely to get rid of that,” he said. “I think what they’re going to do, though, is – again for land border crossings – they’re going to go with a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

“It’s only if you’re coming by air they’re going to be more concerned.”

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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