Sabrina Maddeaux: ArriveCAN’s a menace. It needs to be shelved

© Provided by National Post All travellers must use the ArriveCAN app to enter Canada.

The ArriveCAN app has gone from bad to worse. It was once merely annoying and cumbersome, like having to babysit a too-drunk friend. It’s now a constitutional threat, more like your sloshed buddy, having declared himself Batman, commandeering a police van and “apprehending” passersby.

Now, imagine if it took the cops 12 days to free the victims of your friend’s tequila-fuelled kidnapping spree. And, actually, they think your friend has a fresh take on law enforcement and would like to buy his next round.

If this sounds mad, you’ll find no comfort in knowing it’s not too far off from ArriveCAN’s latest troubles. After an update in late June, the app began to erroneously direct people to quarantine even though they were fully vaccinated and showed no signs of COVID.

According to the government, the glitch issued quarantine mandates to more than 10,000 people for absolutely no reason at all. Of course, if we also take into account the lack of scientific basis for quarantining unvaccinated travellers, the app continues to unjustly isolate many, many more.

But back to the glitch. The government says it fixed the problem within six days, but there’s no way to independently verify whether or not the update worked. Unlike the COVID Alert app, whose code was shared publicly, ArriveCAN was developed and continues to be updated behind closed doors.

Outrageously, it took the government a full 12 days to notify those impacted that they didn’t need to quarantine after all.

The government also can’t seem to get its story straight about exactly how the app works. On one hand, it blames the recent issues on a tech glitch that caused ArriveCAN to autonomously tell people to isolate. On the other hand, government spokesperson Alex Cohen told Global News, “It’s important to emphasize that CBSA and (public health) officials — and not the app — are the ones who determine if an individual is subject to public health restrictions and needs to quarantine.”

Either AI makes the decision to issue quarantine orders or human officials do. It can’t be both. Either way, ArriveCAN flagrantly violated Canadians’ constitutional rights, specifically their mobility rights and right not to be arbitrarily detained.

Moreover, there’s no way to guarantee or independently verify that it won’t continue to do so. Despite this, the government remains committed to continuing the app’s use, even after the pandemic ends, to further its “traveller modernization initiative.”

It was bad enough when ArriveCAN was making a mess out of airports and exacting unnecessary economic harm, particularly on the tourism sector. But this opaque trampling of rights can’t simply be shrugged off with a promise to do better or forming a committee we’ll never hear from again.

ArriveCAN should be shelved, probably permanently, but at least until the government establishes a way to ensure reliability and transparency. In the meantime, it continues to do more harm than good — not just when it comes to airport chaos and rights violations, but to institutional trust. ArriveCAN has become a symbol of government overreach, incompetence, indifference and dysfunction. That reputation is not undeserved.

The app has long been nonsensical and outdated, but it’s now also a constitutional menace and needlessly divisive. It’s time to put ArriveCAN on the next flight to nowhere.

Source: National Post