United in disdain for outdated ArriveCAN app

There are few things, particularly in the politically polarized times in which we live, that have the ability to unite Canadians in a shared sense of purposeful passion.

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Opinion

There are few things, particularly in the politically polarized times in which we live, that have the ability to unite Canadians in a shared sense of purposeful passion.

An international hockey competition, perhaps, such as the legendary Canada-Soviet series that took place half a century ago and ended with Paul Henderson’s Game 8-winning tally, or the men’s hockey final at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which was climaxed by Sidney Crosby’s golden overtime goal.

Or maybe something as culturally bonding as the final foray of the most Canadian of Canadian bands, the Tragically Hip, which bade an emotional farewell to fans in 2016 with lead singer Gord Downie delivering courageous performances from coast to coast despite being in the grips of terminal brain cancer.

Mostly, though, we’re a diverse and divided bunch whose regional, socio-economic, political and cultural differences seem only to be intensifying over time.

Pretty much all Canadians seem inclined to agree: a shared disdain for, and burning desire for the end of, the ArriveCAN app.

There is one other thing, however, upon which pretty much all Canadians seem inclined to agree: a shared disdain for, and burning desire for the end of, the ArriveCAN app that was launched in April 2020 as part of the federal government’s effort to limit the importation of COVID-19 into Canada but has long since outlived its usefulness.

Citizens, workers, elected officials and business owners from every Canadian region and sector have for many months been calling for the elimination of requirements for travellers entering the country to submit proof-of-vaccination information via the ArriveCAN app (failure to do so could result in mandatory 14-day quarantine and fines up to $5,000) up to 72 hours before entering Canada.

Critics, including many prominent voices on the U.S. side of the border, have rightly noted that the practical intent of the app (monitoring travellers’ vaccination status in order to limit the likelihood of bringing COVID-19 into the country) and associated restrictions was rendered moot by the virus’s mutation and the fact the information uploaded to ArriveCAN pertains only to vaccination and boosters against early variants of COVID-19 — shots that have been shown not to protect recipients against newer strains such as the current wave of Omicron variant.

ADRIAN WYLD / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino

If the goal of the app and affiliated measures was to keep COVID-19 out of Canada, it’s pretty clear that a) the plan failed and b) there’s no longer any point — other than creating figurative border-crossing logjams and consequently discouraging travel, with compounding economic impact across multiple sectors — to requiring ArriveCAN’s use.

And so it was with considerable relief, and no small measure of it’s-about-time frustration, that Canadians and many U.S. neighbours greeted media reports this week that the federal government plans to eliminate border restrictions and mandatory ArriveCAN use, perhaps as soon as the end of the month.

On the record, government officials — including Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra — would not confirm the measures would be rescinded and continued to defend the ArriveCAN system, but it was widely understood a final decision on the policy shift was expected to be made on Thursday.

If and when the reports become reality for travellers, Canada will have joined such countries as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Israel and even New Zealand — once home of some of the harshest border-lockdown/quarantine measures — in recognizing the nonfunctional nature of such rendered-feckless restrictions and therefore removing them.

Fifty years hence, they might not celebrate the app’s exit with the same nostalgic fervour with which they’re currently reliving the ‘72 series victory, but saying goodbye now to outdated ArriveCAN requirements is a moment pretty much all Canadians will embrace.

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