March 19: What Does the Border Closure Mean for Hamiltonians?

This article is a summation on the border closure between Canada and the United States, with information from the Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Star as of March 19, 2020.

Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,

As of Friday, March 20, it is anticipated that our border is closing for the foreseeable future. The mutual agreement struck this week between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump will restrict border crossings between our two countries, meaning that any “non-essential” travel will be banned.

We’ll take a look at what that means to anyone here in Ward 8 who intends on travelling to the States in the coming weeks.

For more details, please continue reading below…

With our Prime Minister confirming today (March 19, 2020) that the border will shut down on Friday, March 20, a question many are now asking is “what is non-essential travel”?

The relationship between Canada and the United States is well-known as being one of the closest in the world. Our countries share the largest undefended border and have had free-trade partnerships since the mid-1960s with the Canada-US Auto Pact, followed by greater trade with the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1987 culminating into NAFTA in 1993.

Nearly $2 billion (US) in goods and services crossed the border every day before COVID-19, with roughly 400,000 people travelling between the two countries daily. In February 2020 alone, 745,000 Americans crossed into Canada and almost 1.4 million Canucks headed south. Our two countries are very intertwined.

Truck Crossing the Canadian – United States Border

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said recently that the border closing “will in no way impede the trading relationship,” and that “the last thing the can or us economies need right now is another blow.” 

The PM, during his address to the nation on Wednesday, reiterated that food supply chains and the trucking industry will not be affected by the impending lockdown; “These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border,” he said.

It is safe to assume at the moment that if you or any family or friends are currently anywhere in the United States, you will be allowed to return home. The same can be said for any American friends or family you may know are visiting our country.

But with border states such as Washington and more closer to home, New York state, becoming epicentres of the outbreak, our governments made the decision to stop the flow of travellers/tourists for now. Canadians and Americans who cross the border for urgent work are not impacted yet.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Canada Border Services Agency had not yet clarified what kind of worker might be exempt from the new border restrictions. A list of exemptions does exist on the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice page.

Realistically, we’re not sure when the border will be open again after Friday’s closure. It may be a couple of days or weeks before we know the next steps that our governments may take, but it is advised for anyone returning from the United States or anywhere else are asked to isolate themselves for 14 days. If you develop a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing you should do the following:

1. Complete a self-assessment at to determine if it is necessary to contact public health, your doctor or Telehealth Ontario for more guidance.

2. If the self-assessment indicates that clinical assessment is necessary, for further guidance contact:

  • Your doctor
  • Hamilton Public Health Services COVID-19 Hotline at 905-974-9848*
  • Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000

3. If a referral is provided by your doctor, public health or Telehealth, you will be booked to visit an Assessment Centre.

Not everyone who comes to the Assessment Centres will be tested for COVID-19.

If you require urgent care, visit an Emergency Department or call 911, and inform them of your travel and contact history and symptoms.

*Information for this article was from The Hamilton Spectator and The Toronto Star.

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Ward 8 office here.