Canada working to embed vaccine certification within AriveCAN app: Blair

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OTTAWA —
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government’s app that provides travel information upon entering Canada could soon be used to verify travellers’ vaccine certification.

In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Thursday, Blair said the Canada Border Services Agency is leading the initiative.

“They’re working to include a system of vaccine verification within the AriveCAN app, but even more broadly so that we can be more fully integrated with the Americans but also with our international partners. There’s really significant ongoing work and it’s actually being led by our immigration services in the development of other tools,” said Blair.

This week Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced the first step of a “phased” easing of the federal government’s pandemic border measures, more than a year after Canada restricted non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move follows calls to end mandatory hotel quarantines and permit fully vaccinated Canadians to move around more freely.

The update means those Canadians with two doses will be able to travel outside of the country without having to self-isolate for 14 days or having to stay in a quarantine hotel upon arrival home, starting as early as July.

However, seeing these changes become a reality will depend on whether there are any concerning fluctuations in new case counts and vaccination rates, as well as pending consultations with provinces and territories.

“These metrics are very important factors as we move towards implementing the changes on the border that we hope to have in place in early July,” said Hajdu. “If we can keep our communities safe and free of COVID, then we will not have to return to measures that are so difficult for everyone.”

There has been mounting pressure placed on Ottawa from the tourism and travel sectors to, at the very least, accelerate the reopening of the Canada-U.S. land border.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a press release stating that it was time to revisit the border closure given the high rates of vaccinations in both countries.

“Amending the Joint Initiative to take account of rising vaccination levels would sustain jobs, boost business confidence and allow more families to reunite. It would help facilitate a safe and gradual return to a more normal life,” reads the release.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada also launched a new campaign the same day to raise awareness of the urgency of reopening the border as many businesses are at risk of permanently closing.

The current non-essential travel restrictions with the U.S. have been in place since last March and are set to expire on June 21. The provision exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border.

Blair said conversations are underway with his U.S. counterparts and with border city mayors.

“I’ve reached out and had a number of discussions with the secretary of homeland security and I know the prime minister and the president will be discussing the shared border and what the impact of a fully vaccinated population will have on our ability to ease those measures,” he said.

“It’s really important that we follow the science and the health advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada and our advisory committees.”

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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