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5 Surprising Things 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.

I didn’t research legal matters much when I came to Canada. I assumed that there wouldn’t be too many differences with France and that I’ll be fine just observing people and using common sense.

I learned about local customs and laws little by little, in context. For instance, my journey to Canada started with an introduction to immigration law. I learned to respect local traffic laws when I took my driver licence. I became familiar with labour law as an employee and later 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 I’ve never had to dig into these areas.

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 (CBSA) 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 many 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 defence, when I briefly worked in a call centre many years ago, there were thousands of files by the last name “Singh”—good luck finding the right person! That said, I can understand why the Sikh community could take offence, there is a history behind these names.

Meanwhile, in the U.S.A.… Kinder Surprise are banned

Would my life have 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 plastic 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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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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