Windsor, Ont., resident Michael Mazuran says he was "retroactively punished" after being told to quarantine because he "did not qualify as fully vaccinated," even though he's had three COVID-19 shots.
Mazuran admits he forgot to fill out the ArriveCAN app and wasn't asked about the government's screening tool or his vaccination status before returning to Canada after a grocery-shopping trip in the United States.
Mazuran told CBC News he realized after coming home Aug. 10 that he hadn't submitted the ArriveCAN form.
A frequent cross-border traveller, Mazuran said he's completed the form before. CBC News has seen a copy of Mazuran's vaccine passport.
"It's been so frustrating," he said.
"Why am I being retroactively punished when something should have been done at the border then and there? I feel like that was their negligence. They should be held accountable for missing their step."
In an email to CBC News, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said, "Each entry requires a new ArriveCAN submission and without it, [travellers] are not considered fully vaccinated."
CBC News also reached out to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), to get more details about how border officers are enforcing the app and what happens when it isn't filled out, but hadn't received a response at time of publication. The agency has previously said it doesn't comment on specific cases.
Mazuran's story comes amid criticism about the app.
In recent months, the government has acknowledged app glitches that have sent travellers erroneous notifications instructing them to quarantine.
Ottawa faces mounting pressure from politicians and tourism groups to scrap ArriveCAN, arguing it impedes tourism and creates headaches for some travellers.
Most recently, some organizations have filed lawsuits against the government, claiming the app breaches sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Traveller says he felt like a 'criminal'
Mazuran said the email he received recently told him he had to quarantine for 14 days and get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to screen for the virus, on Day 1 and Day 8.
CBC News has seen a copy of this email.
Mazuran said he also got a call from the Canadian government telling him that since the system didn't recognize him as vaccinated, he was required to follow orders under the Quarantine Act or he could be fined or face prison time.
He said he told the government he could share proof of his vaccination status, but he was denied being able to do so.
As a result, Mazuran spent some of his vacation days and three unpaid work days at home.
"[I'm] pretty angry. [I'm] being treated like a criminal, being treated like a prisoner," Mazuran said, adding he got vaccinated so that he could travel, but didn't expect to face consequences the one time he forgot to fill out the app.
Current rules include having at least two doses of an approved vaccine to cross the border into the U.S.
Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), said it's "reasonable" for Mazuran to feel like he was treated unfairly.
"There's a real question if a border agent didn't do what they were supposed to do in asking for the app to be shown, why an individual would then subsequently face consequences of that lapse, which was then not their fault," she said.
In an email to CBC News, PHAC said people entering the country need to provide contact information and proof of vaccination status, "by electronic means specified by the minister of health."
On the Canadian government's website, it says ArriveCAN is "mandatory" for all travellers to Canada and "it is also required to qualify for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption from quarantine and testing."
If this is for public health measures, a certificate of vaccination status should satisfy those requirements. - Eva Chipiuk, lawyer with JCCF
The website adds that people crossing at land borders who haven't completed the app will be told by a border officer to submit their information, and can:
Provide that information on entry if there's no history of the person previously neglecting ArriveCAN entries.
Go back to the U.S. to fill out the form and then re-enter.
If a person refuses, the website says, you can be fined $5,000 per infraction, with other provincial surcharges possible.
CBC News reached out to Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, but he was unavailable for comment.
Lawsuits filed against Canadian government
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), a non-profit organization whose mission is to "defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education," Mazuran's situation is not unique.
JCCF filed a lawsuit on Aug. 24 against the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of 11 vaccinated and unvaccinated Canadians who were either fined for not using the app or ordered to quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
"[There's] such a wide variety of cases that it's really hard to understand where the justification is for this [app] requirement," said Eva Chipiuk, the lawyer who filed the JCCF lawsuit.
She added the lawsuit challenges the quarantine requirement for unvaccinated Canadians and mandatory ArriveCAN form submission. She said these breach Canadian rights, including around privacy and mobility.
"If this is for public health measures, a certificate of vaccination status should satisfy those requirements," Chipiuk said.
CBC News reached out to the attorney general of Canada, but did not hear back in time for publication.
The group involved in the lawsuit is looking to have mandatory use of the app struck down, have it be declared unconstitutional for Canadians who refuse to fill out the app to undergo a 14-day quarantine and get $1,000 each in damages.