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

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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?

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About Author

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

60 Comments

  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?

    • Actually no,if u lived here like me and learned the history of Canada, you would be surprised about what Canada did to help the U.S, U.K, and France. For example when NASA was established the first scientists who helped America put a man on the moon were from Canada, but they went to America because of WW2

  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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