Ottawa is making plans to expand the capabilities of its ArriveCAN app even as criticism continues to mount over the mandatory online data-entry system for travellers entering the country.
Earlier this week, Transport Canada gave an update on its plans to improve the app, including by adding an optional, online advance CBSA declaration feature for people going to the Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Billy Bishop Toronto City, Ottawa, Québec City and Halifax international airports.
The feature, which Transport Canada says cuts the amount of time travellers spend at a Canada Border Services Agency kiosk by a third, is currently only available to those passing through Toronto Pearson, Vancouver or Montreal-Trudeau international airports.
“With the thousands of travellers arriving in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal airports each day, the use of the optional advance CBSA declaration has the potential to save hours in wait time,” according to Transport Canada’s release.
With Ottawa signalling no plans to do away with the app, here’s a refresher on how it works, why it’s in place — and who’s for and against its continued use.
Why was it put in place?
Though the app was introduced earlier in the pandemic, the version of ArriveCAN people are familiar with today launched in July 2021, when Canada began easing public health restrictions on people coming into Canada. Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents crossing the border were no longer required to quarantine upon their return.
But Canada still wanted a way to account for people’s vaccination statuses and COVID-19 results from a recent test. The app allowed travellers to take a photo or upload a snapshot of their vaccine documentation into the app before going through customs.
How does it work today?
Canada has lifted most of its travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, including the need for domestic travellers to show proof of vaccination while travelling by train or plane.
But regardless of vaccination status, all travellers coming into Canada are required to submit their information to the ArriveCAN app — or the website version if they don’t have a smartphone — up to 72 hours before entering Canada.
When travellers finish inputting their information, they’re emailed a receipt to show a Canadian border officer upon arrival, along with their COVID-19 test results and any vaccination documents.
The app has not been without its issues. Last month, Public Safety Canada acknowledged a glitch incorrectly informed some travellers to quarantine when in fact they didn’t have to.
What are the potential penalties for non-compliance?
Travellers who fail to provide the required information won’t be denied entry but may face a 14-day quarantine, the need to take a COVID-19 test on arrival and a followup test eight days later.
They may also be fined $5,000 and face “additional delays at the border for public health questioning,” according to Canada’s main ArriveCAN information page.
In anyone exempt from using ArriveCAN?
Yes, including people who can’t access the app or website because of cognitive or physical impairments.
Instead, they may provide the information verbally at the border or by completing a paper form.
The exemption also applies to people who can’t fill out the information online because of a natural disaster, censorship, lack of access to internet or an ArriveCAN outage.
There is a degree of leeway for some people at land border crossings too.
As of May 24, “to allow for more flexibility,” the Canada Border Services Agency began letting fully vaccinated Canadian land travellers off with a warning the first time they neglect to fill out the app if they had no prior history of non-compliance.
The union representing border workers told CBC News last month that between 30 and 40 per cent of travellers entering into Canada in Windsor, Ont., weren’t completing the app before arriving.
Who’s against it?
Border city mayors have said the app is a barrier for tourists looking to enter Canada, and for trade.
Other politicians — including Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates Jean Charest, Pierre Poilievre, Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison — have called for the app to be scrapped, saying it creates headaches for some travellers and and contributes to delays at airports.
In a tweet last month, Poilievre called on Canada to “stop forcing ArriveCAN on people” and “restore sanity to our airports.” The tweet included video, which CBC News has not verified, of an elderly person without a cell phone calling the app “bureaucracy run amok” while at a Toronto airport.
This is how stupid things have gotten with this Liberal government.<br><br>Rules for the sake of rules. Rules that don’t make sense. Rules that leave people upset and angry.<br><br>Stop forcing ArriveCan on people. Restore sanity to our airports. <a href=”https://t.co/hUepm7fhJC”>https://t.co/hUepm7fhJC</a>
Lewis more recently called the app a “surveillance experiment” that needs to end.
This terrible ArriveCan App surveillance experiment needs to end. The government cannot continue to infringe on the rights and freedoms of Canadians. <a href=”https://t.co/5rcDHOtzHi”>https://t.co/5rcDHOtzHi</a>
Who wants the app to stay?
MP Taylor Bachrach, the New Democrats’ transport critic, said ArriveCAN continues to play “an important role” in helping screen international arrivals for new variants and for verifying that visitors to Canada are fully vaccinated to protect the country’s health care system.
“But the government must make the app work as intended so it can reduce wait times at airports and border crossings as promised,” Bachrach said in a statement.
The government also needs to better address people who can’t use the online app for accessibility reasons, he added.
“It is totally inappropriate for customs agents to be acting as IT technicians as they troubleshoot travellers’ technology challenges” he said.
Green Party MP Elizabeth May said she has found the app helpful and easy to use during her travels.
“The recent glitch, on the other hand, demonstrates a serious problem in terms of privacy breaches,” she said in a statement.
What does the government have to say about it?
In its release earlier this week, Transport Canada said 1,600 security screening officers with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority have been hired across Canada since April, while 30 new customs inspection kiosks have been recently added at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
In its own statement to CBC News, the CBSA said 99.53 per cent of air travellers used ArrivedCAN in the week ending July 17, according to the most recently available data.
Millions of people have used the app without issue, the spokesperson added.
“Without ArriveCAN, processing times for travellers would increase significantly, as these public health functions would need to be completed manually for each traveller by CBSA officers at the port of entry.”
Canada’s economic activity creeps up, unexpectedly – Al Jazeera English
The economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with a forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, but inflation persists.
Canada’s economic activity unexpectedly edged up in July, data shows, while gross domestic product (GDP) in August was most likely flat, with the surprise gain seen unlikely to change much for the central bank.
The Canadian economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with analysts’ forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday. Growth in goods-producing industries more than offset the first decrease in services-producing industries since January.
“The economy fared better than anticipated this summer, but the showing still wasn’t much to write home about,” Royce Mendes, head of macro strategy at Desjardins Group, said in a note.
The slight gain in July and likely lack of growth in August suggest third-quarter annualised GDP growth of about 1 percent, well below the Bank of Canada’s most recent forecast of 2.0 percent, analysts said.
“After a solid first half of the year, momentum appears to be slowing as multi-decade-high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates weigh on the economy,” Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Economics, said in a note.
The Bank of Canada raised rates by 75 basis points to 3.25 percent earlier this month to fight inflation, which began to cool slightly in July, but is still running at levels not seen in nearly 40 years.
The July GDP data showed oil sands extraction drove growth, jumping 5.1 percent on higher output, with crop production also helping, up 7.2 percent mainly on volumes of wheat and other grains.
Demand for Canadian wheat has increased since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation, helping push up export volumes.
But Canada’s retail trade sector contracted sharply in July, falling to its lowest level since December 2021, pushed down by a 7.1 percent decline in output at petrol stations, Statscan said, though that likely reversed in August.
Accommodation and food services also contracted in July, driven by less activity at bars and restaurants.
Hot inflation meant the Bank of Canada was likely to increase interest rates at its next decision in late October, but then the game may change, economists said.
“The deceleration in economic momentum is why we see the Bank of Canada only hiking rates once more in October,” Mendes said. Money markets are betting on a rise in October, with one more in December or January to bring the central bank’s policy rate to 4.00 percent.
Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News
The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.
“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.
Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.
More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.
Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.
“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.
“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”
On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.
That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.
Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.
Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.
Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.
“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.
“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”
Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.
He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.
That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.
Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.
When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.
“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.
She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”
NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.
She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.
“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.
The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.
“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.
“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.
GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS FORCES SEX WORKERS BACK TO COURT
Sex Worker Legal Media Briefing: Monday, October 3, 2022, 1pm, 330 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court)
September 29, 2022 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker led groups representing thousands of sex workers across the country — along with several individual applicants, is going back to court to challenge sex work laws next week. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) introduced in 2014 has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violations. In 2014, the Liberal government promised to repeal PCEPA; 7 years later they have failed to act and sex workers have been forced to work in the context of criminalization causes harm to their lives.
“Taken individually and together, the PCEPA provisions reproduce harms of the criminal laws struck down in Canada v. Bedford and causes new harms to all sex workers,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) speaking at a media briefing this morning. “We don’t want to be going to court again, it is a waste of precious community resources and time. This government can put an end to this by proposing a Bill for total decriminalization of sex work that would save lives and protect sex workers’ human rights. The harms of these provisions are extensively documented in our evidentiary record, which includes academic and community research on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, racialized, trans, and migrant sex workers across the country, many of whom work in some of the most difficult conditions.”
Sex worker rights organizations are seeking to strike down criminal prohibitions on sex work arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy, and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions.
Before PCEPA became law, sex workers warned of the dangers of criminalization; the Liberal, NDP, and Green Party rejected the PCEPA as it moved its way through the House of Commons. Once passed, however, there has only been government inaction and many expected harms to sex workers’ lives.
This is the first constitutional challenge to PCEPA provisions initiated by sex workers, and the first to challenge all the provisions individually and together arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. Public hearings at Superior Court begin on October 3rd and continue throughout the week.
For more information about the case: http://sexworklawreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Infosheet-ENG.pdf
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