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View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call this meeting to order.
Thank you all very much.
I apologize to our witnesses for the delay, but you know how it is.
Mr. Lewis, happy birthday. Since I missed congratulating you for your bill, I didn't want to miss your birthday, at least.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, June 6, the committee is beginning its study of the potential impacts of the ArriveCAN application on certain Canadian sectors.
In the first panel, we have with us, from Canada Border Services Agency, Denis Vinette, vice-president of the travellers branch. From the Public Health Agency of Canada, we have Marie-Hélène Lévesque, director general of the centre for compliance, enforcement and exemptions.
Welcome to you both.
We will start with opening remarks of no more than five minutes, please.
Mr. Vinette, the floor is yours.
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:26
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for inviting me to participate in the discussion today.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has taken significant action to limit the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in Canada by ensuring the safety and security of our borders. As the pandemic rapidly unfolded, the government put in place travel and health measures to reduce the risk of the importation and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants in Canada related to international travel.
The Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, administers or assists other federal departments and agencies, as well as the provinces and territories, in the administration of over 100 acts and regulations. The Public Health Agency of Canada, PHAC, is responsible for the Quarantine Act and the orders in council that outline travellers' obligations when entering Canada. This means that any changes to Canada's border measures related to COVID-19 are under the authority of PHAC, and the CBSA works in close co-operation to implement and operationalize the measures put in place.
The CBSA and PHAC co-created and launched ArriveCAN in April, 2020 to support the Government of Canada's efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. ArriveCAN was developed to eliminate an onerous and unmanageable volume of paper forms and allow for real-time collection of information to support the compliance and enforcement of critical public health measures. Like every other element of the Government of Canada's COVID-19 response, our border measures are informed by available data, operational considerations, scientific evidence and monitoring of the epidemiological situation, both in Canada and internationally.
Currently, all travellers continue to be required to submit their mandatory information in ArriveCAN, using the free mobile application or website, up to 72 hours before arriving in Canada, or before boarding a cruise ship destined for Canada. For those flying to Canada, submission needs to be completed before boarding.
ArriveCAN is free and secure, and it is the official Government of Canada platform to provide your information when entering Canada. ArriveCAN can only be used by travellers when travelling to Canada, and all travellers must use ArriveCAN when entering Canada, regardless of the mode of entry. ArriveCAN is available to download as a mobile app, or you can create an account online and sign in online.
The use of ArriveCAN, which is mandatory, expedites processing and helps protect the health and safety of travellers and our own CBSA employees. It is the fastest, easiest and most secure way for travellers to show that they meet public health requirements.
Travellers can help minimize delays by ensuring that their ArriveCAN submission is completed within 72 hours of arrival at the border with all of the required information, including vaccination evidence. The completion of ArriveCAN before arriving at the border helps to improve the flow across the border and to minimize delays.
I am also happy to share that we have had a successful traveller usage rate. As of May 2, 2022, over 99% of travellers in the air mode used ArriveCAN, and 94% used it in the land mode.
While we are moving in the direction of prepandemic travel levels, the reality is that we are still in a pandemic. Therefore, travellers are returning to a border that is managed differently, with continually evolving COVID-19 requirements. ArriveCAN is an integral tool to help us manage this travel through our borders and ensure that we continue keeping Canadians safe from the threat of COVID-19.
Thank you. I will be happy to answer questions from committee members in either official language.
Marie-Hélène Lévesque
View Marie-Hélène Lévesque Profile
Marie-Hélène Lévesque
2022-06-15 17:30
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada has directed the implementation of border measures to help reduce the spread of COVID‑19 by international travellers entering Canada. ArriveCAN information submitted by travellers is key to administering testing, quarantine and public health requirements that remain in place.
Fully vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine, but may be selected for mandatory randomized testing. Although the mandatory random testing program for travellers arriving by air has been paused for the rest of June, it will resume in July once testing has moved off site from airports.
ArriveCAN has been, and remains, a valuable tool for the Government of Canada to administer the border measures that have been put in place to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 associated with international travel.
ArriveCAN allows travellers to digitally enter their information in an efficient manner and the government to share this information with provinces and territories. This in turn enables the provinces and territories to contact travellers, who may have COVID, when they enter their jurisdiction. In addition, it enables information exchange with local law enforcement, who can use the data to guide their interventions and to enforce quarantine and isolation requirements.
Data collected using ArriveCAN is critical to PHAC's ability to monitor, assess, and respond to variants of concern and variants of interest that pose a threat to the health and safety of Canadians and Canada’s ongoing economic recovery. It allows us to continue moving towards a more flexible and responsive approach to managing COVID-19 at our borders as it helps inform public health advice to ensure the health and safety of Canadians is safeguarded.
The Government of Canada has gone to great lengths to publicize the ArriveCAN requirement, and has undertaken several media campaigns over the last 18 months in an effort to get the word out. The most recent campaign ended in late May and was designed to reach individuals who had not travelled since the beginning of the pandemic.
ArriveCAN is available as both an application and a web portal, both of which have met high standards for accessibility. There are a number of supports in place to assist travellers when using ArriveCAN, including online information and frequently asked questions, and telephone and email helplines.
Today, 95% of travellers are compliant with the ArriveCAN requirement and provide the information requested when asked, and we are working to improve awareness so that even more travellers comply.
The Government of Canada recognizes that there have been various issues that are causing delays for travellers at the border. However, ArriveCAN is not a significant contributor to these delays.
The vast majority of travellers use ArriveCAN successfully and without issue. For example, the ArriveCAN app has a 4.6 star rating from approximately 90,000 reviews in Google Play and a 4.5 star rating based on more than 413,000 ratings in the Apple app store.
ArriveCAN actually speeds up processing at the border; reviewing a traveller’s information entered properly in ArriveCAN app takes less than 45 seconds.
PHAC understands that Canadians are eager to travel again and we want to make complying with public health measures as seamless as possible.
Based on the latest data and scientific evidence, our priority remains the health and safety of Canadians. We continue to collaborate closely with other federal departments and with our provincial and territorial colleagues as we consider the public health measures we take at the border.
Thank you, Madame Chair.
View Tony Baldinelli Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the witnesses for being with us today. In the last several weeks we've seen the impact of border delays at our airports and land borders, and the potential impact it is having on our tourism sector. I'm going to go to Mr. Vinette.
In January you had talked to that CBC and there's a story that was called “Canada planning technological fixes to make crossing the border faster”. You were quoted as saying that “the agency had been considering technological changes to the border—but the pandemic has allowed it to break through 'glass ceilings' that were in the way.” You further mentioned that “prior to the pandemic, the CBSA had brought the average time spent speaking with a customs officer at the land border down to an average of 55 seconds.” You went on to say that with the new technologies, the agency hoped to bring that average time down to 15 seconds.
While talking to stakeholders in my community I found they were facing border delays of two and a half hours. How is that working for you?
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:35
Undoubtedly, the processing of travellers today with the health measures and the health requirements does take additional time as compared with the time pre-COVID. We had been on a journey to modernize how we deal with travellers at the border for some time using technology. That article there referenced that investment, one of which the government had announced in the previous federal budget, in budget 2021. We term that “travel modernization”. It's about ensuring that individuals have an opportunity to control, if you will, their own passage through the border. ArriveCAN allowed us to introduce the use of various technologies that were not available to us in the past and that will allow us to expedite our investments and make those transformative changes.
One example is that later this month we will be rolling out within ArriveCAN the application advance declaration where someone coming to the border will be able to pre-submit their customs immigration declaration in concert with their health declaration.
View Tony Baldinelli Profile
CPC (ON)
What are the processing times, for example, at land borders at the two major border points, say, at the Ambassador Bridge or at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, which is the second-busiest land crossing in Canada? Have they gone down?
I've have a letter from the general manager of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. He states, “our data suggests that currently, even those that enter with ArriveCAN, have border processing times that are approximately 50% longer than prepandemic processing times without ArriveCAN.” How can you explain that to me?
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:37
There are two parts to the answer. First, for the trucking community, which in Fort Erie at the Ambassador Bridge is a large group, our processing time for trucks remains the same as it was previously, and they've submitted their ArriveCAN information. They're able to cross with what we call a “reusable receipt”, where we reconfirm their actual vaccination status—
View Tony Baldinelli Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Vinette, those trucks can't get to their inspection lanes if they're stuck behind cars that are still on the Peace Bridge, because the processing times take too long; so there, in fact, it's a failure. You may be able to cross and process the truck when it gets there, but we're losing time because those trucks are stuck behind cars that are still waiting because of the mandatory use of ArriveCAN.
I'm looking again at this. What are the processing times for visitors who are coming over at the two largest border crossings, which would be the Ambassador Bridge and the Peace Bridge?
If you could, I'd like that submitted to the committee for our information.
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:38
We'd be happy to work on the statistics you are requesting.
In terms of the processing, yes, it is about double the time, but it's not about the ArriveCAN app. If we were not utilizing the ArriveCAN app, it would actually be far longer.
Currently it's about meeting your obligations under the orders in council issued by the Public Health Agency requiring that you be vaccinated, that that be verified, and that you answer the questions on your current health status.
View Tony Baldinelli Profile
CPC (ON)
I have a letter here from the Peace Bridge authority saying that border processing times “are approximately 50% longer than prepandemic processing times”.
My community is the number one tourism/leisure destination in all of Canada. It generates $2.4 billion in tourism receipts. That was in 2019, the best tourism year ever, and we've had two devastating years since because of COVID. We're looking to save the 2022 tourism season.
Mr. Vinette, have you been to Niagara lately? Have you examined the four border crossings in my community alone? Do you understand the impact that the decisions on the mandatory use of ArriveCAN is having on our tourism community?
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:39
I have not been to Niagara Falls. I was in Vancouver last week and actually saw it in operation, both in the NEXUS lanes and in traditional crossing lanes.
On the need to verify people's vaccination status to determine whether or not they need to quarantine, whether or not they can enter under the orders in council, by receiving the pre-submission our officers have that information validated technologically and presented to them at the border. If people had to do it—and there was a period of time when we did ask them to actually show us their vaccination certificates—
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:40
—and we had to ask all the questions—
View Tony Baldinelli Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Vinette, I'll take this as an invitation to come down. I'd like to show you the four bridge crossings in my community.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you to both of the witnesses for appearing, and a special thank you to Madame Lévesque. My wife is a senior official at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and I appreciate quite directly the amount of work that all of you have been doing at PHAC for the last two-plus years. Thank you very much for all of that.
I wanted to direct my first question to Mr. Vinette and just build upon the line of discussion he was having with Mr. Baldinelli. If we take as a presumption that maintaining Canadian safety is important, and that includes from COVID and therefore the requirements to verify the vaccination status of people who are coming into the country, then we have two options for verifying that status. One would be on paper, versus some sort of digital format. Is that a fair statement from your perspective?
Denis Vinette
View Denis Vinette Profile
Denis Vinette
2022-06-15 17:41
That is a fair statement. That was how it was actually being administered in the early days back in April 2020 when the measures came into force.
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