Clearit.ca's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates
The national border is a place where all sorts of weird and wonderful things are found — you’d be surprised what people actually think they can bring into the country! But with tighter border control and more stringent customs regulations coming into force across the board, the margins are becoming finer as to what is deemed acceptable and what is not.
Of course, there will always be those who (probably due to ignorance more than anything) will arrive at the border with strange items and artifacts that they will naively try to bring into Canada. With that in mind, what exactly are some of the most popular and some of the more odd things people have tried to import? Let’s take a look!
Gun and Weapons
Not surprisingly, perhaps, guns are a popular find for customs agents at the border. Why? Because Americans tend to forget that gun laws do in fact exist in other countries. Innocently or otherwise, many Americans will attempt to enter Canada carrying weapons which may not be illegal in the States, but are banned further north.
With the ever present debate regarding gun laws in America, and the alarming fact that they are actually on the rise despite the numerous recent tragedies, it’s becoming more of a problem for the Canadian border.
On average, the CBSA seize 569 guns a year at the border, not to mention the thousands of other confiscated weapons including knives.
While not illegal to import animals, those which do not meet their import requirements are automatically seized. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requires documentation for all animals entering Canada, and for those more unusual pets, there are further conditions which must be met.
In 2016, 586 animals were seized by Canadian customs for being in breach of the Customs Act. Don’t worry – they’re all kept in safe hands by the CBSA and other departmental bodies until a solution is found!
Drugs and alcohol
If you’ve ever watched a customs tv program or documentary, you’ll quickly realize what the number 1 culprit is for seizure at the border — drugs. While in other cases people can be forgiven for being naive in terms of their knowledge of what is and isn’t allowed into the country, I don’t think anyone could plead ignorance in the case of drugs. If they’re being seized by customs, they’ve been intentionally smuggled. And caught.
Yet, the drugs industry is huge, and whether we like it or not, attempted drug smuggling continues to occur all over the world on a daily basis. In Canada, there has been a significant rise in the amount of fentanyl being seized at the borders, largely coming from China or Hong Kong.
Fentanyl’s infiltration into the drug market in Canada has been well documented in recent years. As an opiod that’s 50 times more potent than heroin, it’s imperative border control continue to crack down on the substance. Of course, as with anything that’s being illegally smuggled, it’s often easier said than done — people are continuing to find new and bizarre way of hiding drugs, including filling Lindt chocolate with methamphetamine!
Some not so common finds…
While firearms and drugs are a typical find for a customs officer, some of the following are not so much! These have all been genuinely confiscated at one point in time at the Canadian border.
- A human skull – not worrying at all.
- A human body – even worse. A driver was arrested by border control when a human corpse was found in a compartment of his truck. He had a lot of explaining to do.
- Turtles – In 2014, Kai Xu was stopped at the Ontario border with 51 baby turtles strapped to his legs. He had been making repeat trips to Michigan where he was buying the turtles, to then cross the border and ship them to China from Canada. While it’s not illegal to buy turtles from US breeders, Xu had been shipping them overseas without a federal permit. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
- Grasscutter rats – A bag of large dead rodents named Grasscutter Rats were seized at Calgary International Airport. There’s no real explanation for this one.
The life of a customs officer is undoubtedly a challenging one, but it certainly is up there with some of the most interesting jobs on the planet! On a day to day basis, those manning the Canadian borders are confronted with some wacky finds that really make you beg the question ‘Why?’
While some are harmless and laughable, the more serious seizures such as large quantities of drugs and firearms, are a testament to the fact that the regulations and statues in place to safeguard our borders are not just a nuisance to make life harder for those wishing to import goods, but are wholly necessary in the prevention of illegal smuggling.