Canada’s Vaccine Passport, ArriveCan, Faces Major Investigations

The invasive attack on civil liberties is also accused of being a waste of public resources.

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Over last week’s end, Canadian Information Commissioner, Caroline Maynard, announced the inception of a probe into claims of the obliteration of federal government records surrounding the government’s controversial vaccine passport app, ArriveCan.

ArriveCAN is a mobile application that was initially launched in April 2020 as a tool to assist border guards in Canada. It was designed to determine if people were eligible to enter Canada and whether they met strict COVID-19 requirements.

The app became mandatory for all air travelers seven months later and was expanded to include those crossing the border by land in March 2021. It collects personal data such as name, telephone number, address, and vaccination status to help public health officials enforce government quarantine rules​.

Aside from the obvious constitutional concerns, there was much debate among experts about whether the app’s requirement for travelers to remain in their homes, especially following a glitch that incorrectly notified thousands of fully vaccinated travelers to quarantine, could be a form of unlawful detention.

The ArriveCan app, which was originally budgeted at $80,000, has seen its costs balloon to over $60 million.

The public backlash against the invasive and dictatorial app, resulted in a major investigation into the app. But now, the focal point of this investigation is the destruction of documentation associated with the creation of the ArriveCan app and its principal contractor, GC Strategies.

The investigation follows last month’s reports by The Globe and Mail which presented an internal grievance from a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employee. The agency staff member purported that Minh Doan, Canada’s chief technology officer, modified data files in a manner that resulted in the disappearance of emails and documents potentially tied to GC Strategies.

The House of Commons, led by Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, has taken a firm stance against the perceived negligence in the management of the ArriveCan app. The passing of McCauley’s motion now authorizes the sergeant-at-arms to detain GC Strategies contractors if they ignore a summons to testify before a parliamentary committee. This bold step underlines the gravity of the situation, echoing concerns raised in the auditor general’s report about the app’s problematic contracting and oversight.

The House of Commons’ decision to potentially arrest non-compliant contractors is a watershed moment in Canadian legislative history.

For clarity, Doan held the position of CBSA vice-president and chief information officer when they engaged GC Strategies to create the ArriveCan app.

Interestingly, the documents claimed to have been eradicated might have been responsive to inquiries to access information about the agency’s dealings and interaction with GC Strategies. An emerging scandal surrounds this two-person tech firm, which has generously received government contracts worth millions since 2017.

The Information Commissioner shared minimal details in her press release last Friday due to the strict confidentiality provisions of the Access to Information Act. However, it was noted therein that an investigation could be launched under section 30(3) of the Act if there are plausible grounds related to securing access to records.

The auditor general, Karen Hogan, did not shy away from waving ethical concerns regarding government staff who accepted gifts from vendors without making necessary disclosures. In her words, the fact that there was an emergency didn’t justify the despising of conventional public service guidelines. She lamented the inadequacy in the levels of public service and declared her expectations for an improved performance.

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