Commercial drivers crossing the border into Canada at some border checkpoints are being asked by Canadian officials to divulge personal email addresses and cell phone numbers. The requests for personal contact information are part of a new initiative to track travelers entering Canada to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Luke Reimer, a communications adviser for Canada Border Services Agency's Western Canada division, confirmed via email that the personal information requests are part of a new pilot project to enhance contact tracing capabilities.
"...As of June 30, in conjunction with Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the CBSA launched a pilot project to collect contact information from persons who are exempt [truck drivers] from quarantine by virtue of falling within one of the exemptions in section 6 of Order in Council 2020-0523," he wrote. "This is so these exempt persons may be contacted during the 14-day period that begins on the day on which they enter Canada."
Canada has had a policy in place since March 31 requiring travelers entering the country by land or air to complete a Traveler Contact Information Form to help PHAC monitor and enforce and mandatory 14-day quarantine or isolation period. Certain persons, such as commercial truck drivers engaged in the international movement of goods, are exempt from the requirement to quarantine provided they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
Previously, the CBSA, on behalf of PHAC, did not require them to provide their contact information.
When Canadian owner-operator Greg Decker arrived at the Sweet Grass, MT/Coutts, AB international border on July 1, a CBSA officer surprised him by asking for his contact information.
Decker complied with the request, and later called the CBSA toll-free line, but didn’t receive any further information on why his personal info was being collected. He then turned to social media and found other drivers had been asked for the same information at Coutts.
"This adds to the already catastrophically high stress level," Decker said in an email. "If the government wants this information, [they should] have the courtesy and respect to explain why in public."
Reimer said this additional requirement has been implemented as part of the pilot project at the following ports of entry:
- St. Stephen, NB 3rd Bridge/Calais ME
- St. Armand, QC/Highgate Springs, VT
- Lansdowne, ON/Alexandria Bay, NY
- Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, Queenston, ON/Lewiston, NY
- Coutts, AB/Sweet Grass, MT
- Pacific Highway, Surrey, BC/Blaine, WA
"This list may expand, pending the results of the pilot project," he added. "If requested, it is mandatory for travelers – including exempt persons [commercial drivers] – to provide their contact information, in accordance with section 15(1) of the Quarantine Act and section 2(b) of the Order in Council 2020-0523."
Canada Border Services Agency maintains a website with all current traveler information, requirements and restrictions.