The Cutting Edge

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Canada Customs Bans Import of Nearly All Folding Knives

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.)

The ZT0350 was the subject of other CBSA disputes.

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.

Flag of Canada Boarder Services Agency

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:

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.


Tim

Timothy Martinez Jr. is the community director for Knife Depot and the editor of The Cutting Edge. If you have any questions or ideas for The Cutting Edge, you can contact him at Tim@knife-depot.com.
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17 Comments

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. Timothy K. Toroian

    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.

  3. does a simple apple peeler suddenly become a revolving blade and illeagal?

  4. 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

    • 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) 😉🤣

      • Most criminals aren’t too bright. Regulation of weapons work, as evidenced by the relatively low Canadian murder rates, compared to our southern warzone.

  5. 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?

    • 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.

  6. It’s like banning forks to cure obesity.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 …

    DECISION
    The appeal is dismissed.

    Daniel Petit
    Presiding Member
    Place of Hearing: – Ottawa, Ontario
    Date of Hearing: – November 9, 2017
    Tribunal Panel: – Daniel Petit, Presiding Member
    Support Staff: – Dustin Kenall, Counsel

  9. Daniel Petit
    Daniel Petit works as Member for Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
    Daniel can be reached at 613-993-7015

  10. 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.

    Any thoughts?

  11. 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 !!!

  12. 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!

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