A disclaimer: this was not written by a lawyer; this is one layperson’s interpretation of a plain reading of the government decisions involved. If you need further information, please contact the CBSA directly, or a lawyer. Please also remember that posts to the web are snapshots taken in time; this was accurate at the time of writing; it may not be accurate at some point in the future, so keep yourself updated as to the law.
As of January, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has classified any folding knife that can be opened with one hand as a “centrifugal knife”, which are prohibited from entering Canada. This means folders which can be opened with a firm wrist flick, a thumb post or hole, an Emerson Wave style pocket hook, or any other type of assisted opening are prohibited from crossing the border into Canada unless “…a Firearms Business Licence has been presented with import – prohibited weapon, listed as a business activity on the licence.” So some businesses may be able to import and sell these knives, but private citizens cannot.
This also means that if you travel outside Canada with a folder, that folder can be confiscated from you upon your arrival back to Canada, regardless of it being on your person (i.e., at a land border) or in your checked baggage (if arriving by air).
CBSA Customs Notice 18-01 (https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/cn-ad/cn18-01-eng.html) defines as prohibited all knives that meet their definition of a “centrifugal knife”, which was initially defined to cover knives like balisongs and switchblades (a different conversation for another time). The notice above was made after the classification of a Kershaw Skyline folder as “prohibited” was appealed to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal and denied (http://www.citt-tcce.gc.ca/en/node/8176).
CBSA has decided to interpret the law at the border in a manner different than enforced by municipal, provincial and federal police forces within Canada. This is a clear overreach by CBSA, as these items are currently legal to buy, sell, possess and carry in Canada. Some possible explanations for this decision:
- This is an effort to enforce the letter of the law to force that law to be more clearly worded.
- This has some international trade/economic reason; very few of these types of knives are made in Canada, so almost all of them are imported.
- Decision-makers in CBSA have deemed it unlikely that this kind of knife could have any legal purpose, after failing to speak to virtually any class of first responder about how useful a single-hand opening knife could be in the course of their duties.
If any of the above are true and this is a matter to which you attach some importance, please reach out to your MP (perhaps using the search box available at: http://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members) to voice your displeasure, and ask that something be done to address this situation.