Editor’s note: Sarah Jorgensen is the owner of Lethbridge Tactical Supply, a knife retailer in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Read BLADE‘s previous articles about prohibitions on the import of folding knives into Canada here.
More Questions Than Answers
A recent decision by the International Trade Tribunal (ITT) has only added more questions than answers when it comes to the tools Canadians can and cannot use for self-defense, emergencies and everyday tasks. After a seizure by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), the ITT announced in January 2018 that it is restricting the import of knives that “have a blade that opens by centrifugal force,” and that “includes knives that require some preliminary or simultaneous minimal manipulation of either a flipper or other non-edged parts of the blade.”
So what are our rights? What are we allowed to use to protect ourselves? Will we get in trouble if we hurt someone with a particular kind of knife while acting in self-defense? And most importantly, are we risking our safety by asking these questions in an emergency instead of acting?
Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states that a prohibited knife “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.”
Wait a minute. How did we go from a device on the handle, to a device on the blade? The Criminal Code has not changed, but the CBSA’s interpretation has. This means that Federal, Provincial and local law enforcement agencies do not consider flippers on the blade of a knife as prohibited, but the CBSA does.
It Doesn’t Add Up
As a retailer, I can still purchase and sell these knives with no restrictions. However, if I can’t import them, how can I sell them? There are very, very few knives made in Canada, certainly not enough to keep up with the demand of our customers. Some knife manufacturers are now refusing to ship any folding knives at all into Canada because they are not sure which knives the CBSA is going to consider prohibited and seize.
So, why would the CBSA and International Trade Tribunal come to this decision? Are they keeping Canadians safer? Has there been an increase in attacks with knives that have assisted openings? The answer to both of those questions is no. I can still import fixed-blade knives, machetes, axes and batons. Are those items any more or less dangerous than an assisted-opening knife?
And who uses these assisted-opening knives that are so dangerous that the CBSA must override the Criminal Code to protect Canadians? Well, the majority of my customers are first responders (including CBSA agents) and they use these knives. They use them to gain access to vehicles and cut seat belts from people involved in car accidents. They use them as a last line of defense. They use them while on camping trips with their families. Most commonly, they use them to open packages and boxes. I sell these knives to knife enthusiasts and collectors, avid outdoorspeople and, yes, I sell them to people looking for a way to protect themselves in an emergency.
So, the question I have for the CBSA is this: How are you going to explain why your agents are seizing the same knives they use at work?