The last of Canada’s border restrictions for COVID-19 will disappear at the end of this month with the expiration of a cabinet order affecting mandatory vaccinations, screening and immigration.
That expiration means the end of the insistence that travelers use the ArriveCan app to enter their vaccine status and test results, though the app will live on as an optional tool for customs and immigration.
At the moment, it has not been decided that passengers must wear masks on trains and domestic and international flights because that law is contained in a separate order issued by the minister of transport.
The sources spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition that their names not be disclosed because they are not authorized to speak publicly. While the Liberal Cabinet met on Thursday afternoon, cabinet approval is not required to allow the order to expire.
One of the sources said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, before the cabinet meeting, signed a decision not to renew the laws.
This change means that international travelers will no longer need to prove that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Under current law, Canadians returning to the country who are not vaccinated must show a negative test result for COVID-19 before arrival, and continue to be tested after arrival. They must also be quarantined for 14 days.
Unvaccinated immigrants are simply barred from entering Canada unless they fall into certain categories, such as airline or boat crews, those requiring essential medical treatment, diplomats and temporary foreign workers.
The cabinet order also states that vaccinated travelers will be selected for random COVID-19 testing, and requires travelers to submit proof of vaccination and test results electronically.
The only way to do that is with the ArriveCan app.
All of that will end when the clock strikes midnight on October 1.
Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault would not confirm the decision Thursday afternoon, but said if the order is allowed to expire, it would also end the mandatory portion of the ArriveCan program.
“So the mandatory piece is the policy piece, and because people are proving that with ArriveCan, that’s how the order is written, from what I remember,” he said on his way into the cabinet meeting.
ArriveCan has evolved into a digital border arrival tool, and now people flying into certain airports can use it to fill out their customs and immigration form instead of a paper version.
Boissonnault said that is in line with the digitization of border forms in several countries, including Europe, and in the long run will make for a faster and smoother border experience.
“If we want to go from 22 million visitors in 2019, to something closer to 30 million in 2030, we’re going to have to have a digital frontier,” he said.
The expiration of this order also means that the minister of health will no longer be able to immediately prevent citizens of certain countries facing an outbreak of COVID-19 from coming to Canada. That move was used to bar people from India and some African countries in different areas, a move that some criticized as racist.
Canada’s border measures for COVID-19 have been evolving since the pandemic began in March 2020.
For more than a year, Canada required a 14-day quarantine for all returning Canadians, and for a time quarantine had to be lifted in whole or in part at some hotels.
Between March 2020 and August 2021, foreigners could not enter Canada for a period with some exemptions for essential workers including airline workers, health workers, and truck drivers.
In July 2021, when all Canadian adults and youth are eligible for vaccinations, the government will no longer require quarantine for fully vaccinated Canadian travelers.
In August 2021 they opened the border to fully vaccinated Americans, and in September 2021 the border was opened to fully vaccinated citizens from all countries.
The border measures have become highly politicized, with conservatives calling for Trudeau to remove them all, and Leader Pierre Poilievre made ending them a key policy in his latest leadership campaign.
Conservative Deputy Leader Melissa Lantsman and the party’s lieutenant in Quebec, Pierre Paul-Hus, said in a joint statement Wednesday that ending these measures within weeks of Poilievre winning the leadership is easy.
“Since its launch, the ArriveCan app has killed jobs, crippled the economy across the country, and told tourists that they are not welcome in Canada,” they said. “Along with unscientific vaccination mandates and mandatory random screenings, ArriveCan has created the longest delays ever seen at Canadian airports.”
Delays at airports were partly blamed on ArriveCan, as some travelers who struggled to get it to work, or couldn’t or wouldn’t use it, backed up lines. However, the delay has also been blamed on a staff shortage affecting everything from airport staff to security guards and border guards.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease expert, has been opposing mandatory vaccinations and border checks for months. In an interview Thursday, he said screening asymptomatic travelers at the border is expensive and not as helpful as screening people with symptoms in the community.
He said that without testing everyone, the policy will not prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The government has been pointing to random testing as a way to check the arrival of new varieties but Chagla said there are better and simpler ways to check them.
This Canadian Press report was originally published on September 22, 2022.