Crouch is quadruple vaccinated, has not tested positive for COVID-19 and is showing no symptoms. The border guard who waved him back into Canada last week said nothing about getting a COVID test, or quarantine, but when he got home he found an email and a notification in his ArriveCan app, telling him to stay home for two weeks.
Crouch lives in Ridgeway, Ont., a 15-minute drive from the Canada-U.S. border and like many living in border communities, he has American friends he visits regularly. He also picks up groceries on the other side of the border.
He said there was no hint of an issue at the border, so the email hit him like a ton of bricks.
“I checked my email and there’s an email from ArriveCan, saying you are quarantined. This is your second day of quarantine,” he said.
Use of the ArriveCan app is mandatory for international travellers entering Canada. It requires people arriving either by land or by air to fill out their vaccination status, information on where they are staying in Canada and to do a self-assessment for a potential quarantine.
Crouch said he has tried contacting the government through a variety of different hotlines, but no one has returned his call.
They can tell you things, they can send you things, but God forbid you ever tried to get hold of anybodyDAVID CROUCH
“It seems to be all one way. They can tell you things, they can send you things, but God forbid you ever tried to get hold of anybody.”
Audrey Champoux, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, wouldn’t comment on any individual cases including Crouch’s, but said the government believes ArriveCan is a valuable tool for the Canada Border Services Agency and is working for most people.
“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,” she said.
She acknowledged there have been problems, but stressed the government isn’t looking to use the app to punish people.
“While we are aware some travellers may have experienced some glitches, in cases where people have issues using the app, the CBSA’s top priority is always to help and educate, not be punitive.”
Crouch said the email contained instructions demanding he provide his quarantine information, but he hasn’t filled it out because he doesn’t believe he needs to quarantine. Crouch said he would like to cross the border again in the coming week, but his ArriveCan app won’t let him fill out a new entry into ArriveCan because it believes he should be at home.
As a regular border crosser, Crouch is a Nexus card holder and said he is concerned crossing the border now when the government’s app says he should be in quarantine will cost him.
“I’m sitting here saying I don’t want to get a $5,000 fine. I don’t want to lose my Nexus card.”
Crouch contacted his MP, Conservative Tony Baldinelli, who said he has heard many similar cases. He said in one case a local mother and daughter crossed the border without incident, but were told later they had failed to do a mandatory random test.
Baldinelli, who represents Niagara Falls, said even when the app is working as designed it creates a real strain on border communities.
ArriveCan has been a disaster for our community in terms of its impact on our tourism communityTONY BALDINELLI
“ArriveCan has been a disaster for our community in terms of its impact on our tourism community,” he said.
Crouch said even before this most recent incident he has been forced to do random tests, which he said take up to three hours to arrange.
Baldinelli said there are a lot of people like Crouch in his community and getting back and forth across the border has been a nightmare for them.
“Our two communities are highly integrated. So we’ve got a lot of people who, for example, will live here and work in the United States or live in the United States and work in Canada.”
In a letter sent last week, Kenneth Manning, the chair of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority that operates the Peace Bridge, pleaded with the government to scrap the ArriveCan requirement.
He said traffic is down by over 40 per cent compared to pre-pandemic times as people are opting not to bother because of the ArriveCan issues. He said processing times are up considerably at the border and people are staying home.
“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when Minister Mendicino says ArriveCan will reduce border delays. But it will not be due to technology, it will be due to reduced volume.”
Manning argued the government should make use of the app voluntary at the land border and if it really is capable of reducing processing times, people will use it.
The executive director of the Niagara Falls Canada Hotel Association, Doug Birrell, made the same pitch, arguing the government needs to back away from ArriveCan or tourists won’t make the trip to his community.
“Unless the government reverses course and allows normal tourism entry through land borders and air corridors, we will never get our business back. Other countries will benefit while our market share disintegrates.”
Baldinelli said he is extremely worried about his community, which after two bad years during the pandemic is now losing a third summer due to ArriveCan.
“I mean, 75 per cent of the revenues in our tourism community here are generated during a four-month period.”