Manitobans forced to quarantine for two weeks because they drove into Canada from the U.S. without filling out the federal government’s online app are irked other travellers will be shown leniency, while they are stuck at home.
"This is so ridiculous. I’m fully vaccinated (and) this is just a procedural thing," said Lincoln Rau, who is self-isolating after he crossed into Manitoba from North Dakota last week. He had no idea about the requirement to upload his information — such as COVID-19 vaccination history and quarantine plan — into the ArriveCAN app. As a result, he had to quarantine.
"I still could have part of my vacation over Christmas if they lifted my quarantine now," said Rau.
He’s one of hundreds of Canadians who complained to their MPs about being caught off guard at the border.
In response, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced on Monday he had spoken to the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure travellers are given additional guidance at the border.
On Tuesday, Conservative MPs twice asked Mendicino whether he would rescind quarantine orders against people who had issues with the ArriveCAN app, such as seniors who did not understand the technology.
Both times, he failed to give direct answers.
"The ArriveCAN app is one of the tools in the kit that we are using to ensure that we are screening returning Canadians.
"It has been a mandatory requirement since the beginning and we will continue to communicate, as well as introduce flexibility at the border, when we can,"he said.
In an email to the Free Press, Canada Border Services Agency spokesman Allan Donovan slammed the door on the idea quarantines would be lifted.
"Travellers who are already in quarantine for not meeting the mandatory requirements have to complete both Day one and Day eight tests and quarantine for the full 14 days," said Donovan.
Margaret Parris, who lives near Lac du Bonnet, said she is still upset at being confined to her home since she and her husband Al returned to Manitoba from a quick trip to the U.S.
"We’re still tapping our feet here waiting," she said.
Although she had entered her information into the app, she didn’t realize the version she had downloaded had been updated, so she needed to delete it and download a new one.
The Parrises had to reschedule a trip to Cuba as a result of having to stay at home for 14 days.
Donovan said the border services agency "will do our best to either allow travellers to return to the U.S. to enter their information into ArriveCAN or, where possible, we will allow travellers to complete ArriveCAN when they arrive at the border.
"To be clear, the use of ArriveCAN remains mandatory for everyone entering Canada."
In a statement calling the app the "Liberals’ failed ArriveCAN app," Tory public safety critic, Manitoba MP Raquel Dancho, said the government should revoke the quarantine of Canadians who didn’t fill out the app for various reasons.
The Tories say Canadians haven’t been able to access the app because of poor cellphone service or the app has frequently crashed.
"Further, the requirement to utilize the ArriveCAN app has been discriminatory towards Canadians without smartphone access, including seniors and Canadians with visual accessibility needs," said the statement.
Margaret Parris said there is a silver lining to having to self-isolate: she has been able to sew more dresses and shorts, which she will take to Cuba to give to children there.
"I’ve run out of zippers and elastics, though," she said. "I’ve completed 15 wee girl dresses and have started on wee boy shorts. It is an 80-kilometre trip, but I can’t go because we’re in quarantine.
— with files from Dylan Robertson
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.