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Don Martin: Blocked at the border no more: Good riddance to the ArriveCAN app


Finally and mercifully, ArriveCAN is dead on arrival at airports and border crossings as mandatory vaccination for foreign entry to Canada is lifted by month’s end, according to government sources.

The glitch-prone app, which frantic foreigners scrambled to download in customs lineups or while huddled in cars near land points of entry, had its day early in the pandemic as Canada opened a cautious door to international travel.

But the travel industry and border businesses have spent the last year arguing their economic health demanded its elimination, insisting the app with its questionnaires and vaccination codes did little to keep Canada buffered from a COVID-infected world.

And they were proven right.

The timing of the prime minister’s decision Thursday (expected to be announced Monday) was driven more by the need to protect Justin Trudeau’s political hide than the general public’s health.

OK, perhaps fledgling Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre deserves an assist for spurring the government to bring Canada into high-flying line with the rest of the travelling world.

One of the biggest applause lines in his anti-gatekeeper arsenal has been taken off the list with the cabinet decision to render ArriveCAN merely optional.

But the app as an alleged agent of airport chaos was increasingly viewed as government stubbornness over common sense, which amplified that accusation of this as an example of Liberal ‘wokeness’ you’ve been hearing about a lot lately.

So without much, if any, protest from the pandemic’s oh-so-cautious health authorities, the app and associated random testing at airports will be abandoned, leaving behind a legacy of missed flight connections from ArriveCAN-generated lineups while costing the economy mega millions of American dollars from fearful tourist no-shows.

It was, at least since infecting-everyone Omicron spread, so pointless. Airport arrivals always tested positive at roughly the same rate or less than the general public. There was never a greater risk of variants from someone coming into Canada than from a typical Albertan heading into Saskatchewan. And if you wanted to detect a variant, you found it in sewage systems and not a random airport test.

For most of the last year, it has been a maddening and confounding case of self-righteous preachy Big Brother-knows-best style over legitimate public health substance.

Besides, where there was a will, there was always a way to bypass the mandatory testing, falsify the ArriveCAN app or dodge the vaccination process with money or connections.

It was an open secret when I was in Mexico last winter that you could buy a negative COVID result for US$200 in a matter of minutes, a steal of a deal compared to being held in isolation for a week or longer after a positive COVID test which, for the record, didn’t apply to me.

And then there was the curious case of a rabid anti-vaxxer acquaintance of mine who showed up in Toronto recently confiding she’d ‘obtained’ fake proof of vaccination from a pharmacy in Texas.

In other words, money could buy an illegal entry to Canada while a cash-strapped family with kids was stuck in a motel until those double pink bars no longer appeared on the testing strip.

ArriveCAN may have been born as a well-intentioned attempt to open the border safely to vaccinated visitors, but there’s welcome relief that a computer app no longer decides if you’re worthy of entering Canada. May it remain forever blocked at the border.

That’s the bottom line.




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