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ArriveCAN Application

February 26, 2024

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week, we learned that another company, with just two employees, was awarded $7.9 million in contracts to develop the notorious ArriveCAN app. Can the leader explain how two people can be awarded $7.9 million in contracts?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

The answer is no, I have no explanation. That’s why the contracts of several companies involved in the development of ArriveCAN have been suspended. It’s also why an investigation is under way within the department to shed some light on what happened. If any illegal activity is found to have taken place, a police investigation will follow.

I will explain what happened, leader. The fact is that the company is used simply as a front, claiming to be Indigenous. Money is taken out of the budget for contracts awarded to Indigenous companies, who then sub-contract to non‑Indigenous companies. The amount of $7.9 million that is usually allocated to Indigenous companies was given to non‑Indigenous companies.

Will the government commit to conducting a full audit of every contract awarded to Indigenous companies to ensure that the sums are indeed going to Indigenous people?

Senator Gold [ - ]

It is unacceptable for a company or an individual to try to circumvent a policy designed to support and encourage certain businesses, whether they are Indigenous or they work in any other context. Again, the investigation will shed light on the situation because it is unacceptable for such things to happen.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ - ]

My question also concerns the $60 million “ArriveScam” app, specifically the deleted emails. On Friday, the Information Commissioner issued a statement that says:

Based on allegations related to the destruction of records that were the subject of access to information requests, the Information Commissioner of Canada has initiated an investigation into matters related to requesting and obtaining access to records regarding ArriveCAN between March 2020 and February 23, 2024.

Leader, that’s almost four years’ worth of emails which have allegedly disappeared. Based on the statement, the commissioner appears to have launched the latest investigation into “ArriveScam” on her own accord. Why didn’t the Trudeau government ask her to investigate?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

I’m not in a position to answer that question. I think the government is pleased that the investigation is under way, as it is with all the other investigations. Once again, colleagues, politics aside, the situation that we now understand took place with the development of ArriveCAN had so many problems and flaws, as the Auditor General properly pointed out in her report, including lack of documentation, which makes it even harder — impossible, in some cases — for her to get to the bottom of the matter.

These are things that should never have happened and will not happen again if all the measures that are put into place are followed through as they should be.

Senator Martin [ - ]

It’s actually quite unfathomable that four years’ worth of emails are missing. That’s a lot. Four years, leader. It is ironic, to say the least, that the former CBSA official at the centre of the deleted “ArriveScam” emails is currently the Chief Technology Officer for the entire Government of Canada.

Since it learned of the allegations that four years’ worth of his emails were deleted, what has the Trudeau government done to recover them? Has it done anything?

Senator Gold [ - ]

I’m not in a position to answer the question of what steps have been taken. I will certainly raise that with the minister at my earliest possible opportunity.

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