Since October 1, only a tenth of Canadian air travellers have used the 'highly illogical' ArriveCan app to provide proof of vaccination.
In an Inquiry by Ministry tabled in the House of Commons, Public Safety Canada disclosed that of 9.97 million air travellers who entered Canada in the first quarter of the year, only 1.13 million used the ArriveCan app or 11% of travellers.
At international airports in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa, usage rates fell as low as "less than one percent" for the voluntary program, reported Blacklock's Reporter.
Ottawa launched the expensive ArriveCAN app in April 2020 as an alleged pandemic management tool. They claimed it would streamline the border-crossing process by allowing travellers to upload quarantine details.
Though initially optional, ArriveCAN eventually became a prerequisite for air and land travel by July 5, 2021, when the federal government required all travellers to disclose their COVID vaccination status.
Cabinet continues to justify ArriveCan as a time saver for travellers by submitting personal information and vaccination status to Customs agents before arrival.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates using the app saved travellers "about five minutes" at border crossings. "It saved about five minutes at the border for each traveller, which significantly reduced overall processing time and points of contact at ports of entry," wrote the Agency.
In a committee testimony last September 27, one Customs and Immigration Union executive contested that claim, stating the long ArriveCan lineups led to drivers urinating and defecating themselves, reported Blacklock's Reporter.
"One of our officers at Niagara Falls had travellers who…urinated and defecated themselves having been stuck in the car for so long," testified Mark Weber, union president. "I think that says it all."
Program costs totalled $54 million, prompting the Commons to vote last November 2 for a special spending audit. Results are pending.
"We know this was a huge waste of our money," said Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre. "The government spent $54 million on an app that could have been developed over a single weekend for $250,000."
"Moreover, we know the app was unnecessary," he continued. "Canadians have been able to cross the border without it for decades. Why did this app suddenly become necessary?"
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has since asked for the Clerk of the Privy Council to review the ArriveCAN contracts and subcontracts tied to the two-person staffing firm tasked with its development and maintenance.
GCstrategies — the Ottawa-based company that received millions in federal commissions on IT projects — subcontracted its work on the ArriveCan app to six other companies, including multinationals such as BDO and KPMG. The firm typically billed Ottawa between $1,000 to $1,500 per worker daily.
Trudeau faced questions on why the federal government couldn't hire these IT companies directly instead of paying millions in commissions to the two-person staffing company.
"That's exactly the question I asked of the public service," he said. "This is a practice that seems highly illogical and inefficient."
Vaccinated and unvaccinated Canadians took the federal government to court in February over alleged Charter violations by its dysfunctional ArriveCAN app.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Canadians who received fines or faced forcible quarantine for refusing to disclose their COVID vaccination status through the app. Those who failed or refused to use ArriveCAN could face a maximum fine of $750,000 or be imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.
The lawsuit alleges the federal government breached the plaintiffs' rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that they are owed monetary damages.
According to the Justice Centre, some plaintiffs willingly disclosed their vaccination status through other means. Still, all shared privacy concerns concerning ArriveCAN potentially sharing their collected personal medical information widely with other government departments, agencies, police forces, and even other countries.
They also expressed concerns about having their vaccination status searched upon entry to Canada and are required to use the software to enter their own country without fines and quarantine freely.
Border agents fined one of the plaintiffs, Joanne Walsh, a retired Canadian from Burlington, Ontario, for not using the ArriveCAN app despite presenting proof of vaccination. They also ordered her into a 14-day quarantine.
After the incident, the Public Health Agency of Canada sent agents to her residence during this period to check her compliance with quarantine.
"Privacy of Canadians is one of the fundamental rights our Charter protects," said Hatim Kheir, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. "ArriveCAN's disclaimer that Canadians' private information could be widely shared is a serious concern to the plaintiffs and should be for all of us."
Hatim called the measure an "unprecedented requirement" for Canadians to enter Canada.
The lawsuit will proceed in Federal Court at a date to be determined later.