Knife Laws in Canada

By Christopher Herhalt - Updated June 05, 2017
Switchblade knife

Knives are both dangerous items and everyday necessities for cooks, hunters, fisherman and even warehouse workers who deal with endless streams of cardboard boxes each day. However, the Criminal Code of Canada does outlaw some types of knives, and different police departments and provincial governments have other rules about what types of knives are considered too dangerous to be carried in public meetings and when dealing with a police officer.

Prohibited Weapon

Article 84 of the Criminal Code of Canada bans the sale and possession of any knife 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." This part of the law has evolved into a test where police attempt to release the blade of a knife out of its handle with only one hand. If the knife's blade slides out, even slightly, the knife is considered to be a "prohibited weapon."

Passable Knives

Knives with sheaths, knives that take both hands to open and any knife with a fixed blade are legal in Canada. Knives only become the law's concern in Canada after being used to threaten, injure or kill someone. Due to Canada's strict gun ownership laws, knives killed more people than guns did in Canada between 2000 and 2004.

No Purchase Rules

There are no laws governing the sale of knives in Canada. This may come from Canada's rich hunter/adventurer tradition, but knife vendors are not even required to check a buyer's age before selling a knife. There is also no criminal background check, licensing process or any other examination required to purchase a knife. This is because of how common and useful knives are in everyday life. Sales rules would choke most people's access to a tool with endless peaceful applications.

Possession

Simple possession of a legal knife is not a crime in Canada. However, a prosecutor may be able to argue in court that a small pocket knife was carried for a "purpose dangerous to the public’s peace" or in order to commit a crime. In this case, even possession of a small pocket knife can become a problem. The argument of possession of a knife for self defense has not yet become common law, and cannot be counted on as a blanket defense.

About the Author

Christopher Herhalt has been writing for print and web since 2008. He has been published in "The Charlatan" newspaper of Ottawa and "The Tehran Times" of Tehran, Iran. Herhalt received the Carleton University School of Journalism's K. Phyllis Wilson Award for excellence after his first year of study. He is enrolled in the Honors Bachelor of Journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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