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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?


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

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