5 Things You Wouldn’t Believe Are Banned or Illegal in Canada


Kinder Egg Toys, Ottawa, August 2011

It’s not sur­pris­ing that laws and reg­u­la­tions are based on many fac­tors, cul­tural, eco­nom­i­cal, polit­i­cal etc. and vary greatly from coun­try to country.

When I came to Canada, I didn’t research legal mat­ters much. I assumed that there wouldn’t be too many dif­fer­ences between France and Canada and that I’ll be fine just observ­ing peo­ple and using commonsense.

I learned about local cus­toms and laws lit­tle by lit­tle, in con­text. For instance, my jour­ney to Canada started with under­stand­ing the basic of immi­gra­tion law. I learned to respect local traf­fic laws when I took my dri­ver license. I became famil­iar with employ­ment law as an employee and as a free­lancer. Most areas of law are still a mys­tery to me—property law, con­tract law etc. —because I’m not a pro­fes­sional and it doesn’t affect me directly.

But there are some laws or bans that you really, really can’t guess. Here are 5 things you wouldn’t believe are banned or ille­gal in Canada!

Used or Second-Hand Mat­tresses — If you are in the process of immi­grat­ing to Canada, don’t change your bed­ding just yet. The Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency decided to ban the import of used or second-hand mat­tresses, unless you have a cer­tifi­cate ver­i­fy­ing that the mat­tresses have been cleaned and fumi­gated in the coun­try of export. This deci­sion has safety and health in mind: some old mat­tresses don’t meet the new fire safety stan­dards, and bed­bugs are an increas­ing problem.

Baby walk­ers — Like CBSA, Health Canada has funny pri­or­i­ties. In 2007, the experts (the baby walker spe­cial­ists?) decided that it was ille­gal to import, adver­tise for sale, or sell baby walk­ers in Canada. It is also ille­gal to sell baby walk­ers at garage sales, flea mar­kets, or on street cor­ners. And what if you have a baby walker at home? Well, Health Canada shows no pity for the remains of our child­hood, and orders peo­ple to “destroy it and throw it away so it can­not be used again.” Appar­ently, these devices lead to injury and don’t teach a kid to walk faster. Gee, I won­der what Health Canada would say about my lit­tle wooden rock­ing horse that is still in my par­ents’ living-room!

Dire Straits’ “Money for Noth­ing” — The Cana­dian Broad­cast Stan­dards Coun­cil has ruled that “Money for Noth­ing,” the band’s hit, is too offen­sive for Cana­dian air­waves. The song is being sin­gled out for using an anti-gay slur (“that lit­tle fag­got”) three times in its sec­ond verse. Accord­ing to the Cana­dian Broad­cast Stan­dards Coun­cil chair, “This is a word that has no place today on the air­waves.” Funny thing is, the song was writ­ten in 1985 and it appar­ently took 26 years for a Cana­dian to be offended. Pre­sum­ably, the Cana­dian Broad­cast Stan­dards Coun­cil will spend the next two hun­dred years going through mil­lions of lyrics and ban­ning much more songs—last time I turned the radio on, I heard a lot of things about sex, drug and rock & roll.

Tak­ing your spouse name (in Que­bec) — Tra­di­tion­ally, in most West­ern coun­tries, women used to auto­mat­i­cally assume the fam­ily name of their spouse. As gen­der equal­ity pro­gressed, women were given the free­dom to keep their birth name or even append a spouse’s name to their birth name. But in Que­bec, since the pas­sage of a 1981 provin­cial law intended to pro­mote gen­der equal­ity, no change may be made to a person’s name with­out the autho­riza­tion of the reg­is­trar of civil sta­tus or the autho­riza­tion of the court. This law does not allow a woman to imme­di­ately legally change her name upon mar­riage, as mar­riage is not listed among the rea­sons for a name change. What is described as a “highly sym­bolic gain for the fem­i­nist move­ment” angered a few new­ly­weds who wished they had the right to choose what works best for them.   

Com­mon Sikh names — Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion has a long-standing pol­icy to ask peo­ple to pro­vide a third name if their last name is extremely com­mon. This is the case for pop­u­lar names in the Sikh com­mu­nity, such as Singh and Kaur. Indeed, in a tra­di­tion that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every bap­tized male and Kaur to every bap­tized female Sikh. CIC fears that files could be mixed up. In CIC’s defense, when I briefly worked in a call cen­tre many years ago, there were thou­sands of files by the last name “Singh”—good luck find­ing some­one! That said, I can under­stand why the Sikh com­mu­nity could take offense, there is a his­tory behind these names.

Mean­while, in the U.S.A… Kinder Sur­prise are banned — Would my life had been dif­fer­ent if I had grown up in the U.S? Undoubt­edly. For instance, if I have been deprived from Kinder Sur­prise, I wouldn’t have devel­oped an addic­tion to choco­late. And to cute lit­tle toys. The prod­uct, avail­able world­wide, has never been allowed into the U.S for two main rea­sons: the U.S has a pro­hi­bi­tion against hav­ing an ined­i­ble item inside an edi­ble object, and Con­sumer Prod­ucts Safety Com­mis­sion deter­mined that the prod­uct cre­ates a chok­ing and asphyx­i­a­tion haz­ard in young chil­dren. Tell that to the Cana­dian woman who was fined $300 for “smug­gling” to Kinder Sur­prises across the border!

Have you ever heard of a sur­pris­ing ban or a strange law? Did you know about the ones in the article?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Matthew Jameson on

    Just couldn’t write an arti­cle with­out bash­ing the US. I will never under­stand why Cana­di­ans call them­selves friendly.

    • I would dis­cuss and argue, but con­sid­er­ing your user­name, I fig­ure there is no point in doing so.

      Seman­tics, though–maybe America’s fridge? Cold room? Freezer?

  2. Good arti­cle Zhu, I got my cit­i­zen­ship in Canada last year and give birth to a lovely girl early this year, I was a lit­tle bit sur­prised about the baby walker but have to respect the law :)

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