By Schnarr, J.W. on February 27, 2018.
The owner of a local tactical gear store says her business is being harmed by the Canadian Border Services Agency decision to reclassify some folding knives as prohibited weapons in spite of them being legal to possess in Canada.
“It’s absolutely a misinterpretation of the Criminal Code,” said Sarah Jorgensen, owner of Lethbridge Tactical Supply.
Her store specializes in gear for first responders, law enforcement and the public. The store carries an assortment of manual-assisted folding knives which are legal to own in Canada but which have been prohibited for import by the CBSA following a recent ruling on a trade dispute.
“Why on earth is something being prohibited to import but not prohibited to own?” Jorgensen asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The Criminal Code of Canada specifically prohibits blades which open 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 a knife.
But manual-assist knives have a thumb stud or flipper on the blade itself, not the handle, and are legal to possess and own in Canada.
In 2015, the CBSA made their ruling on spring- or auto-assisted knives. That ruling appears to be in contradiction with the prevailing view in law enforcement. It was recently challenged through the Canadian International Trade Tribunal after a seizure of these knives, but the challenge was dismissed.
According to Jorgensen, CBSA has decided the knives have a device on the handle to assist opening because the studs are on the blades, and the blades are attached to the handles.
“All the knife people went, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” she said.
Ironically, the knives are often carried by emergency responders due to their ease of use.
“The majority of my customers are first responders,” Jorgensen said. “And now I can’t even sell them knives.”
Further, Jorgensen said the CBSA has overstepped the Criminal Code in regards to centrifugal-force blades with recent seizures of knives which can be opened while holding the blade of the knife.
“If you hold the knife by the blade, and flick it with your wrist, and it opens and locks, it’s prohibited,” she said.
“That’s basically every single folding knife in the country.”
For example, a Leatherman, a folding multi-tool which can feature pliers, screwdrivers, bottle or can openers, wire cutters, files, and knife blades, might be considered a prohibited weapon by the CBSA.
“You can grab the blade of the folding knife and flip open the Leatherman,” said Jorgensen. “Does that mean a Leatherman is prohibited now? It’s very unclear.”
Jorgensen said one of her providers has already sent notice they are no longer sending their knives to Canada until the ruling is clarified, narrowed or repealed.
She said she has spoken to CBSA agents who claim to carry these knives themselves.
“Now they have to seize the knives that they themselves carry at work,” she said.
“Certain knives, like switchblades, are designed to hurt people,” she said. “The knives that we carry are tools. They have seatbelt cutters and window punchers.”
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