What is going on?!
Just a few months after Canada joined the rest of the world (except the United States, of course) in allowing small knives on planes, it announced a sweeping change that essentially bans nearly every type of folding knife in existence from being imported into the country.
On January 5, here’s what the Canada Border Services Agency wrote on its website:
In accordance with subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code and the CITT’s recent decision in T. LaPlante, the CBSA resolves that centrifugal knives will be classified as prohibited weapons if the following conditions are met:
a. a knife has a blade that opens by centrifugal force, when the blade is released from the handle into the fully ejected and locked position with a simple and brisk outwardly flick of the wrist; and
b. it includes knives that require some preliminary or simultaneous minimal manipulation of either a flipper or other non-edged parts of the blade.
Knives that can be opened with the flick of your wrist are prohibited. This could include those knives that also use a flipper or other non-edged parts like a thumb stud.
If applied broadly, that pretty much covers the vast majority of folding knives — whether it has an assisted-opening mechanism or not. While slipjoints are safe in theory, you could probably open most of them with centrifugal force if you tried because this includes non-edged parts of the blade. (Hold the spine of a blade on your Swiss Army Knife and it’s not hard to see how you could do it.)
If you think I’m being a bit flippant, just take a look at how a similar law was implemented in New York City. The laws there are very vague and police have taken advantage of the vagary to classify pretty much any folding knife they want as an illegal gravity knife.
Needless to say, the takes have been brutal.
Thomas Xavier over at the More Than Just Surviving offered the best analysis of what it means. Xavier is from the UK and had lived in Canada for years.
This is a grotesque legislative overreach, and should it actually be enforced to the full extent of the law, could prove hugely problematic for sensible folks like us. If you are or know a Canadian, please share this with them, as they certainly should know what’s coming. The new regulation may or may not be enforced stringently, and this could easily hit people who simply are not aware of the legal change.
It’s unclear just how broadly they will apply these laws and that’s part of the problem.
Canadian Customs Unclear for Years
Unfortunately for Canadians, this lack of clarity of what is and isn’t allowed to be imported has been going on for years.
A quick look through Blade Forums will reveal all these stories of knives getting seized.
In 2003, someone had their Kershaw Leek detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) before it was sent through after some complaints.
In 2015, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) started allowing customs to seize flippers because “the Tribunal determined that pressing on the protrusion engages the torsion bar or spring system, which is integrated into the handle. Accordingly, it can be said that the knives open by pressing a device attached to the handle, as the protrusion must be attached to the spring or torsion bar mechanism in order to activate it.”
More and more people started seeing their flippers seized.
That’s what sparked the latest appeal to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
Five Kershaw Skyline knives were seized and classified as prohibited weapons by the Canada Border Services Agency. This is a knife with a flipper but no assisted-opening mechanism.
When CBSA seized the knives, the person tried to appeal the decision.
The CITT agreed that the Skylines were prohibited. The scary part is that the tribunal says that a knife is prohibited if it can open automatically once the blade is slightly ajar “with minimal manipulation by the thumb of either the flipper or other non-edged parts of the blade, such as the nail nick, to overcome the initial resistance.”
That could be just about any knife.
So Are Flippers Illegal in Canada Now?
No, not necessarily. The decision by the CITT and the CBSA does not change the law.
This is what is defined as a prohibited knife in Canada:
a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife,
While knives like flippers and maybe more will likely be seized as they cross the border, they’re not necessarily illegal to own or carry.
Now, if police starting broadly defining knives as illegal and the courts back them up, then that’s when things start getting dicey.
What Does It Mean for Canadian Collectors?
I’m not entirely sure, but it can’t be good. Those in Canada who collect knives or buy knives from the United States or abroad will probably want to stop, unless they want to risk their knife getting seized.
Fortunately, knifemakers in Canada can still export their knives to people in the United States.
Sales in Canada may also increase because importing knives from the United States may not be an option, but here’s a good analysis from Blade:
This isn't about pitting one group again another, though. By and large, knifemakers agree that such restrictions are bad for the craft, bad for enthusiasts and bad for business. https://t.co/CWFzp8O3t3
— BLADE Magazine (@BladeMagazine) January 16, 2018
Are There Ways Around It?
Some people are speculating as to what sort of ways there are to get around this potentially arbitrary and over-broad classification. This is not a recommendation, but a discussion from what others are suggesting.
Some people are saying you should tighten the pivot before importing to Canada. I believe it specifies that there should not be “minimal manipulation” to do it, though it’s unclear whether they’d actually know.
Here’s a video showing how they might do it:
Others suggest to completely remove the blade, though who knows if border security will figure that out.
Another possible way to get around it is by mailing the knife in pieces. Again, that’s a big hassle with no guarantees.
Could This Happen in the US?
Something similar happened in the United States not long ago. According to Blade, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized imported assisted-opening knives, claiming they violated the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act about 10 years ago.
But in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act that protects assisted-opening and one-handed opening knives.
Now we don’t have to worry about overzealous customs taking our knives.
We’ll keep you updated if anything changes in Canada.
January 23, 2018 at 8:19 am
Mail from the US to Canada goes through Canadian customs, so that might not be the best idea. I’ve had things I sent in the mail held up for a week or two there.
I wonder what happens when you just cross the border with a knife in your car, and if the procedure will change. They always ask about firearms, and occasionally about mace and/or pepper spray, but I’ve never been asked if I had a knife. I know that just for myself, I’ll be leaving them at home rather than risking confiscation of an expensive knife.
December 15, 2018 at 11:34 am
They’re generally somewhat vague, asking if you have any weapons. If you consider it a tool, which for most of us they are, the answer would be a straightforward no. Listen to how they ask their questions, CBSA are generally not dicks unless they’re having a crap day, and they ask the way they do for good reasons. Relax, enjoy the trip, unless you’re hiding something. Then be nervous AF, they’re not stupid.
January 23, 2018 at 8:53 am
Perhaps the world of cutlery will have some participants from Canada manufacturing their products in this country. They would definitely be welcomed.
January 23, 2018 at 5:56 pm
does a simple apple peeler suddenly become a revolving blade and illeagal?
January 23, 2018 at 6:10 pm
don’t the moronic public( beauracrats and politicians) know a few pissant rules will not stop any body who is determined to own something they classify as contraband? are they going to go through every kitchen and take every blade? rock on the revolution for some sanity
August 21, 2018 at 10:38 am
Are you insane? Our government assures us that abortion, alcohol, drugs, etc will never be controlled by bans bc people will break the law…but gun & knife bans ALWAYS work 100% bc it’s the violent criminals who follow the laws. It’s known as the Trudeau doctrine, where fantasy & reality merge into a never ending spiral of double speak & insanity. Thank God we have such smart “progressives” to tell us what to do!
Lol (sarcasm my friend) 😉🤣
December 15, 2018 at 11:41 am
Most criminals aren’t too bright. Regulation of weapons work, as evidenced by the relatively low Canadian murder rates, compared to our southern warzone.
December 17, 2021 at 10:03 am
You might look into the sparcity of habitation as a factor. The tighter you jam animals together, the more violence occurs. With or without weapons. Piss me off enough and squeeze me in and my bare hands will be quite enough.
May 8, 2023 at 8:29 pm
BS GTA is 4th biggest city in NA
November 18, 2022 at 7:05 pm
America has a criminal class that is largely absent, although growing in Canada.
January 23, 2018 at 11:28 pm
More of the same and… what’s yet to come? Just watch George Carlins take on rights. They aren’t rights if they can be taken away, they are privilege’s. We are not a threat as law abiding knife owners just as law abiding firearms owners aren’t. The sad fact is the same gang bangin hooligans that carry an illegal firearm in public probably also carry a sweet balisong, switchblade or stiletto that I wouldn’t mind owning myself. In that regards I won’t own anything that is illegal or prohibited but, that’s what makes me a law abiding citizen and knife enthusiast. Oh well, I guess I’ll roll over on command for another stupid legislation and government infringement like all other lawful people of Canada even though criminals won’t. Fellow Canadians, when this bs… er, I mean fine Canadian legislation passes, join me in surrendering or throwing out your pocketknifes even though you’ll never commit a crime with them, oh but don’t forget to replace it with a pair of plastic safety scissors for if you ever need to cut a seatbelt to rescue someone from a burning car… better yet, knaw through that dot approved nylon webbing with your teeth. We haven’t been told we can’t carry those anymore… right?
January 24, 2018 at 3:57 am
There is a organization dedicated to preserving our right to keep and carry edged weapons. kniferights.org. They have fought to repeal many restrictive laws in many states. They are currently fighting the City of New York to repeal some laws there too.
December 15, 2021 at 3:40 am
in canada we have no rights you should know this by now. we live in a police state where they can deem anything illegal at any time and arrest you for not wearing a mask or entering a restaurant without getting the jab. we have absolutely 0 rights because all our so called rights can be violated
August 27, 2022 at 6:19 pm
fair point and getting worse
February 5, 2018 at 4:01 pm
It’s like banning forks to cure obesity.
April 2, 2018 at 6:18 pm
Dave , its common sense ….
February 11, 2018 at 12:10 pm
I am a Canadian from Ontario. I sent a letter to my local MP (Member of Parliament). Below is his response to my email. He has also forwarded my concern to the Minister of Public Safety. I hope this helps.
Thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns. Due to the technical nature of your inquiry I was able to contact the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and they provided me with the following information:
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for effectively controlling the movement of weapons in order to ensure compliance with existing laws, regulations, and orders. The importation of goods listed in tariff item (TI) 9898.00.00 is prohibited unless an exemption in that TI applies. Prohibited weapons are listed in TI 9898.00.00. According to the Criminal Code, subsection 84(1), prohibited weapons are defined as:
a) a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife; or
b) any weapon, other than a firearm, that is prescribed to be a prohibited weapon.
A CITT decision, Appeal No. AP‑2017‑012, T. LaPlante v. President of the CBSA, regarding knives that open automatically by centrifugal force, was released on November 16, 2017. The statement of reasons of the CITT decision is explained in the decision document, which can be found at http://www.citt-tcce.gc.ca/en/node/8176.
The CITT decision determined that a centrifugal knife is one that has a blade that opens automatically by centrifugal force when the blade is released from the handle into the fully ejected and locked position with a simple and brisk outward flick of the wrist. It includes knives that require some preliminary or simultaneous minimal manipulation of either a flipper or other non‑edged parts of the blade.
There are also situations when folding, assisted-opening, spring-assisted, and ball-bearing knives may be considered a prohibited weapon if the blade, through wear and tear or alteration, can be fully opened by applying centrifugal force or gravity to the blade as per the CITT decision. If this is the case, these knives would fall within the definition of a prohibited weapon, and could be prohibited under TI 9898.00.00 unless an exemption in that TI applies. The jurisprudence has stated that in such cases, it is the capability and not the design of the knife that will determine whether it is a prohibited weapon. In some cases, knives are also designed to open automatically with centrifugal force as per the CITT decision and, therefore, would also be considered prohibited.
Not all pocket knives are considered to be prohibited weapons. Each importation of a knife is evaluated on a case‑by‑case basis in order to determine its classification.
The CBSA applies the provisions of the Criminal Codewhen determining whether certain weapons can be imported into Canada. An amendment and repeal ofCriminal Code provisions falls under the purview of the Department of Justice. I am therefore forwarding a copy of your correspondence to my colleague, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, for information and consideration.
Thank you again for your correspondence.
April 2, 2018 at 6:16 pm
I have a folder on me since my 13 years old , im in my mid 40’s now
i have develloped taste in folders over the years ….
They allow immigrants Kirpans on airplanes but ban our daily tools we need ….
wow , when you can see the system have no head …were the human race to ?
Stupid Decision (made in Ontario …not surprisingly i should say!) made by daniel petit …
The appeal is dismissed.
Place of Hearing: – Ottawa, Ontario
Date of Hearing: – November 9, 2017
Tribunal Panel: – Daniel Petit, Presiding Member
Support Staff: – Dustin Kenall, Counsel
April 2, 2018 at 6:29 pm
Daniel Petit works as Member for Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
Daniel can be reached at 613-993-7015
May 26, 2018 at 10:07 am
I just got a letter stating that my Kizer Large Hunter is being held at the border.
I can appeal, but I’m not sure if that will help. I feel like I should get a lawyer, but I don’t want to shell out $2000 for a $100 knife.
June 24, 2018 at 2:23 pm
This doesn’t make any sense just ridiculous I don’t know what’s wrong with this world people is logical thinking just don’t make sense anymore !!!
July 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm
Let me get this straight… so I can order a large ass fixed blade say for bushcraft from the states with no problem with csba?
Does that mean people will start walking around with sheaths on their belts for edc cause its completely legal?! As a collector and enthusiast of folders I find this crazy!
May 6, 2020 at 9:08 pm
Whoever initiated this ban / legislation is the stupidest and biggest fucking asshole to everyone. Fuck them.
October 8, 2020 at 6:40 pm
If gun owners and collectors can purchase “restricted” firearms why is there no provision for knife owners or collectors to purchase “restricted” knives? Even if we had to register them it would at least be something positive. It doesn’t make sense to me as a collector that I can buy Katanas but not assisted knives. I have carried a pocket knife since I was eight years old, I am now sixty three and have yet to injure anyone with my knife.
February 28, 2022 at 7:06 pm
I never once thought I would say this but….
I might actually get together with my American X‐girlfriend and then propose to her so I can live in America just so I can safely and happily continue my long lived passion as a knife collector/enthusiast!!!
The only time I use a knife is as a tool for work or food preparation. That’s it, then after some use I love to sharpen them myself + being that friend who properly sharpens his family and friends knives with wet stones then strop. So really more then one of my passions are being destroyed with our pathetic laws that do nothing to actually protect anyone, they just piss people off and makes our country weak and vulnerable. I bet a pack of trained monkey’s could take our country over let alone an actual attack from another stronger well organized group of whatever…
I HATE NOT HAVING MY RIGHTS IN A SO CALLED FREE COUNRTY!!! The Canadian police-government have way to much power (becoming power hungry)our laws and the people who create them are actually pathetic AF ….
It’s wrong that they want the people of Canada to have absolutely no way of defending themselves and/or save their life or someone else’s life for some reason if it came to that. What are the police, fire fighter, military or army soldier going to be there to save us all everytime no matter what 100% guaranteed safety from burning cars, exploration or hunting incident, random attack or kidnapping from who or whatever etc… etc… …. Ahhhh I seriously doubt that is even possible and I will trust my knife with a *quick simple one-handed ASSISTED OPENING to save my life, family’s or anyone else’s life!!!
CANADA I’M OUT!!! AMERICA THE TRUE LAND OF THE FREE HERE I COME!!!
April 1, 2022 at 10:47 pm
I ordered a Spyderco Paramilitary 2 a couple weeks ago, and had the seller engrave my name on the blade. I’ve been concerned about it being seized, but tracking shows it being received by Canada Post, and ‘in transit’ to my location, so I guess I’m okay. It’s about $240cdn, so I’m wondering if I’ll have to pay duty & taxes.
I just can’t believe what is happening in this country. The switchblade law is nothing more than a kneejerk reaction to inner city gangs in the ’50s. There’s no reason for us to have laws like this today. Canada doesn’t need a prohibition on switchblades. There’s no good reason why we can’t have them.