Understanding ArriveCan requirements and legal issues

The ArriveCan requirement as written states:

Every person who enters Canada via air, land, rail, or marine vessel must use ArriveCAN, unless you are exempt. You will need to submit your information on ArriveCAN within 72 hours before you arrive in Canada. You can access ArriveCAN with an internet browser or download the App on an electronic device such as your smartphone, laptop, tablet etc.

There are some limited exemptions to using the ArriveCAN app. If recognized as exempt, you may be able to provide information verbally or by completing a paper form.

You may be exempt if:

  • You are unable to use ArriveCAN because you have a cognitive or physical disability (as defined by the World Health Organization);
  • You are unable to use ArriveCAN because of an ArriveCAN outage, service disruption, or a natural disaster which has disrupted the internet for a wide population;
  • You are a refugee whose application was approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC);
  • You are seeking asylum from the United States; or
  • There is inadequate infrastructure, for example, if you are unable to use ArriveCAN because of country-based censorship

Recently, the government has made a one-time exemption if you are a land traveller – for example, if you are arriving in Canada via land, and you are unaware of the ArriveCAN requirement, and are fully vaccinated against Covid. If you qualify for this exemption, you will not be subject to quarantine, testing or fines for not using ArriveCAN, but only on one entry.

What are the risks of not complying:
Foreign nationals may be denied entry into Canada for failing to use ArriveCAN.
If you are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, person registered under the Indian Act, or certain foreign nationals (for example, if you are allowed entry into Canada for compassionate grounds, work, or study) and you do not use the ArriveCAN app, you may be required to quarantine for 14 days, complete a Covid test, and/or be subject to fines or enforcement action.

The Federal Governments requirement to use ArriveCAN is made by way of Order pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act. Failure to comply with an Order under the section 58 of the Quarantine Act means that you may be found guilty of an offence and be subject to a fine of up to $750,000 or up to 6 months in jail, or both(5).

Generally, the tickets issued will say “failed to comply with an order prohibiting or subjecting to any condition the entry into Canada” pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act. Canadians have been issued tickets for not using ArriveCAN, and/or for refusing to do a Covid-19 test. In many circumstances, people have been issued two or more tickets, resulting in fines amounting to $5,000-8,500. People have also received tickets for failing to answer questions at the border pursuant to s.15(1) of the Quarantine Act in the amount of $900. Questions that one can expect to be asked include whether you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or if you have experienced any symptoms of Covid-19.

Option 1:
Comply. As it stands right now, the requirement to use the ArriveCAN app is the law. If you do not comply, you can be issued a ticket and be subject to the court process to resolve your matter.
Option 2:
If you choose not to comply, you will likely be given a ticket.

A) Pay the fine. Once you receive the ticket, you have the option of paying the fine. The information to pay can generally be found on the back of your ticket.

B) Contest your ticket. Once you receive the ticket, you generally have 15-30 days (depending on the province) to contest your ticket. You can call the number on the back of your ticket and contest the ticket within the designated time period.

Once you contest your ticket you will be given a court date, this may take weeks or sometimes months. If you choose to exercise this option, then it is critical for you to contest the ticket in time, or you can be convicted in your absence.
It is worth noting that being polite in your interactions with the border agents and with Public Health Officials can go a long way in your experience at the border and the outcome.