The federal government plans to drop the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for people who enter Canada by the end of September, the same day it ends random testing of arrivals and makes optional the ArriveCan app.
The changes, for arrivals at land, air and sea ports of entry, are planned for Sept. 30, but have yet to be finalized by cabinet, according to four sources. The Globe and Mail is not naming the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The mask requirement for people on trains and planes will remain, according to two of the sources.
The aviation and travel industries have been pushing the government to relax the rules for international travel, saying they discourage visitors and are out of step with many other countries as the pandemic eases.
Canada’s health measures at airports and border crossings were in line with those of many other countries when they were adopted, but have remained in place for longer.
Most European countries dropped entry requirements related to COVID-19 before summer began, returning to prepandemic standards in a bid to welcome tourists after more than two years of widespread illness, lockdowns and stay-home orders.
The United States requires all entrants to be vaccinated, and it is not known if the requirement will be lifted at the same time as Canada’s. Although U.S. President Joe Biden declared recently that the pandemic is over, he said COVID-19 is still a problem.
People entering Canada use ArriveCan to submit their customs declarations, vaccination status and travel plans. It has been criticized as cumbersome, and a contributor to the lineups and logjams at many Canadian airports over the summer. The app told some people erroneously that they should go into quarantine.
Nadine Ramadan, a manager in Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s office, declined to comment and referred questions to Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety.
Audrey Champoux, a spokesperson for Mr. Mendicino, did not address questions about the lifting of border measures, but said the government is working with industry to streamline the “process at the border and make travel easier and simpler for everyone.”
“Since the onset of this pandemic, we have continually reassessed health and safety measures to keep Canadians safe,” she said.
The Conservative Party’s new leader, Pierre Poilivere, campaigned in the leadership race against the ArriveCan app and remaining vaccination mandates.
Pollster Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research, said the Liberal government is trying to take COVID-19 travel restrictions off the table so it doesn’t look dogmatic.
“That is what has upset people,” he said. “Now that more and more people are travelling they are seeing that Canada is much more stricter and over the top about these kind of things than a lot of other countries.”
Mr. Poilivere has been a vocal opponent of mandates since the convoy of anti-vaccination protesters occupied downtown Ottawa in February. In June, he tabled a private member’s bill that, if passed, would prohibit Ottawa from imposing vaccination mandates on federal public servants and the travelling public.
John Gradek, a former Air Canada manager who teaches aviation leadership at McGill University, said he has heard from discussions with industry members who have told him passengers will likely still have the option of submitting their travel plans, customs declarations and their information using the app, or stand in a line to do so.
Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesperson, said lifting the measures at the airports would support the aviation sector’s recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19.
“From the outset of the pandemic, we have advocated for safe travel based on science,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “The current science supports the relaxation of measures such as these.”
On June 20, the government suspended vaccination requirements for domestic and outbound travellers, federal government employees and federally regulated industry workers. The government cited declining COVID-19 cases and the fact that 32 million people, or 90 per cent of eligible Canadians, had received their shots.
More than 6.5 million people, including more than 45,000 in Canada, have died of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic in March, 2020.