Exclusive: ArriveCan technical issues violated Charter rights, alleges new class-action application

ArriveCan’s “arbitrary, inaccurate, incorrect and unreliable results” interfered with Canadians’ Charter rights, a class-action application alleges.

Canadian firm Consumer Law Group says it filed a statement of claim earlier this week in Federal Court against the attorney general.

The federal government launched ArriveCan in April 2020 to track health and contact information for people entering Canada during the pandemic, and to digitize customs and immigration declarations.

The application alleges technical problems with the app led to unnecessary directives to fully vaccinated travellers requiring them to quarantine after entering the country.

It demands the government declare it infringed Charter rights of liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary detention or imprisonment. It would also require the government compensate class members for lost wages or cancelled trips.

“If you were forced to quarantine and you were exempt … you should not have been kept in your house,” said Consumer Law Group lawyer Jeff Orenstein in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca. He says more than 2,000 people have already contacted his office asking about the class action.

Work trip, family time

The two lead plaintiffs for the suit are Quebec residents E. Sabbag and D. Rossner who, during a trip to New York state in May 2022, were allegedly unable to access ArriveCan prior to their return.

Despite showing the border agent their proof of vaccination, they were allegedly told by a border “manager” that officials had been instructed to send all travellers without ArriveCan information directly into quarantine without exception.

They called the Public Health Agency of Canada and an agent told them they could end their quarantine once they had the results of a COVID-19 test, according to the statement of claim.

The suit alleges that Rossner got his results back in fewer than four days, while Sabbag’s results took a week to arrive.

According to the statement of claim, Sabbag had to cancel a long-weekend trip for his partner’s birthday and a work trip to Winnipeg, and was unable to care for his daughter, among other claims, while Rossner had to cancel a wedding anniversary trip and “sports activities.”

“In addition, they have suffered pain and suffering, stress, trouble and inconvenience, anxiety, lost hours making phone calls and dealing with the issues relating to the alleviation of the wrongful quarantine, and loss of enjoyment of life,” reads the statement of claim.

The statement of claim cites a variety of reported issues and experiences with the app, including an application update which resulted in “erroneous” quarantine instructions sent to 10,200 Apple device users from June 28 to July 20, 2022.

CTV News reached out to the attorney general’s office, which directed questions to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

“As this matter is the subject of ongoing litigation, we have no comment at this time,” wrote spokesperson Karine Martel in an email to CTVNews.ca.

The attorney general has 30 days to respond to the class-action application. Ten additional days are available upon request.

Controversial software

ArriveCan has been embroiled in renewed controversy after Canada’s auditor general released the scathing results of her performance audit last week.

Ultimately, Canadians “paid too much for this application,” according to Auditor General Karen Hogan. She said those involved in the contracting, development and implementation of the app displayed a “glaring disregard” for basic management practices.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh were quick to take potshots at the Liberals, accusing the party of mishandling the app.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s “obvious” contracting rules weren’t followed during development.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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