New Brunswick

Maine farm store offers cross-border travellers help with ArriveCan app

C&E Feeds, a farm store in Calais, Maine, is helping up to a dozen travellers a day fill out the ArriveCan app required to enter Canada.

New Brunswickers going to C&E Feeds in Calais, Maine to complete travel form

Manager Sue Provencher is helping customers at C&E Feeds in Calais, Maine, complete the ArriveCAN app. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Behind the counter at C&E Feeds, Sue Provencher is helping up to a dozen travellers a day fill out the ArriveCan app required to enter into Canada.

"When you get to customs and they're telling you, 'No, you can't go,' it's intimidating," she said. "So it's good for them to have a place to go and a smiling face, and we can help them get home."

The farm store and parcel pickup business is minutes from the New Brunswick border in Calais, Maine. For a $5 US fee, which covers staff time, employees will help fill out the app.

Canada has dropped most restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers. However, it still requires people to submit travel and COVID-19 health information through the ArriveCan app or website.

Those who fail to fill out ArriveCan could be turned away at the border, ;or face a 14-day quarantine or a $5,000 fine.

Seniors sent back

Desperate travellers trying to get back to Canada at St. Stephen, N.B., originally turned to the Calais Free Library for help. But the small staff quickly became overwhelmed. 

Now, they're being sent to C&E Feeds.

WATCH / Maine store busy helping travellers navigate ArriveCan app

This American farm and parcel business helps Canadians get home

6 months ago
Duration 2:09
C&E Feeds in Calais, Maine, is completing the ArriveCAN app for travellers for a $5 US fee.

Provencher, the store's manager, said she first helped a longtime Canadian customer who was turned back on the way home after the border reopened. Then customs called asking if the store could offer a service.

"They were having to turn around a lot of elderly people that were coming across because they don't have the technology to do the ArriveCan app," she said.

The Canada Border Services Agency said it now lets vaccinated Canadian land travellers off with a warning the first time they don't fill out ArriveCan.

Spokesperson Patrick Mahaffy said officers can direct people back to the U.S. to complete the form, but it has no formal agreements with private businesses.

"When asked by travellers, officers have provided information on locations that are offering assistance to travellers with ArriveCan," he wrote in an email.

App challenges

C&E Feeds bought a tablet specifically for filling out ArriveCan, and staff have the app downloaded on their phones. After completing the form, they provide travellers the code on a note to share at the border.

Even when the store is closed on Sundays, staff have been coming in to meet travellers when they get calls for help.

Provencher said the typical client is a senior coming across the border to visit family and shop for groceries or medications.

Travellers entering Canada are required to submit travel and COVID-19 health information through the ArriveCAN app or website. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

One of the staff members lives in St. Stephen. He also gets help completing the app everyday, since he doesn't own a smartphone.

Customers have trouble navigating the app, don't have a device or didn't know it was a requirement. There are also regular travellers who cross to Campobello Island to go golfing and have the business complete the form for them.

The Canada Border Services told CBC News it assists travellers with ArriveCan when feasible, including helping people fill out the app at the border or letting them return to the U.S. to complete it. The agency has faced complaints over technical glitches and being difficult to use for seniors.

Creating lineups 

The union representing customs officers says ArriveCan is causing delays at both airports and the land border.

Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said some port of entries don't have Wi-Fi leaving people unable to fill it out. 

"You can imagine cars pulling up without it completed and then they're stuck in line with everyone lining up behind them," he said.

Provencher said many of the travellers she helps are seniors who have trouble using the ArriveCAN app or don't have a device. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

The federal government plans to keep the app in place until at least June 30.

Provencher said the ArriveCan requirement is frustrating for tourists and local cross-border commuters.

"We'll be here regardless, continuing to help people for as long as needed, but I do hope they make it easier for everybody."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

With files from Sophia Harris

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