Legal Issues of Pocket Knives in Canada

When you picture a knife you either think of knives in your kitchen, the knives you use for everyday tools, and other times you think of them as deadly weapons. Knives are very useful tools and we need them on a daily basis. Whether you are a cook, a hunter, a fisherman or just need to cut open a box or cut a piece of rope, knives are very popular tools. However, even though they are considered useful tools, the Canadian Government believes there still needs to be laws to regulate the types of knives Canadians can own. In Canada some knives are illegal no matter what they are used for. If you live in Canada, how do you know the difference between a knife that is legal and ones that are illegal? It depends on the Canadian Federal laws, your local Canadian police department and your local provincial laws.

The Canadian Criminal Code, Article 84 covers the laws regarding illegal knives. The article defines a weapon as any object designed to be used in causing death or injury to any person or anything designed to be used for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person. By this definition a butter knife could be considered a weapon. However, having a knife on your person does not make it illegal. According to the law, a person with a knife must have the intention to use the knife as a weapon. With this said, you can’t be blind to the fact that any pocket knife can be threatening and can cause serious injury.

The types of knives that are restricted in Canada are knives you can open automatically. An example would be a switchblade. Switch blades are folded knives that have their blade under spring tension. Some switchblades are side opening and others extend out the front. The blades on these knives are quickly deployed by pressing a button to release the tension on the spring quickly extending the blade. These knives are hard to be justified as being tools. How often would you buy a switch blade just to cut rope or open boxes? These knives were primarily designed to be weapons.

Other knives prohibited by Canadian Law include knives that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force. To determine if a knife falls under this law, police will try to release the blade out of the handle with only one hand. If the blade slides out then the knife is a considered an illegal weapon. The problem with this law is most modern pocket knives are designed to be opened with one hand. Manufacturers such as Gerber, SOG and Kershaw manufacture a large number of pocket knives that can be easily opened with one hand. So are these knives illegal in Canada? According to the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) the following list of knife types are considered prohibited:

  • Automatic knives such as switchblades
  • Centrifugal knives such as flick knives or butterfly knives;
  • Gravity knives;
  • Constant Companion (belt-buckle knife)
  • Finger rings with blades or other sharp objects projecting from the surface;
  • Push daggers;
  • Spiked wristbands;

According to the CBSA list, normal pocket knives do not fall within any of these categories. To determine if a knife is illegal in Canada comes down to common sense. If your knife is practical for use when camping, hunting or simply cutting a rope, then it is legal. But if the same knife is used to harm another person, then it is weapon. When a knife is used to harm another person a prosecutor can argue that a small pocket knife is a dangerous weapon since it was used to harm someone. Thus a knife of any type can become a problem even if used in self defense.

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