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Bear Spray in Canada

Some time ago I raised the question about bringing bear spray into Canada. Nobody really knew whether it was OK and how to do it. I know the story now and will share some of it with you all.

I have a letter from the Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario stating that bear spray (and it MUST be bear spray not human spray) is legal under the Canadian Pest Control Act. Health Canada has certified a number of sprays and issues registration numbers like the EPA does. Note that the Canadians measure only Capsaicin and not capsaicin-related compounds. Capsaicin must not exceed 1%. If you have an EPA registered spray, it will almost certainly pass muster in Canada.

All this is great BUT... you have to clear Customs and that is where the trouble lies. To make a very long story short, If Customs classifies your can of spray as bear spray (a pesticide) then you can theoretically import it into Canada. However, importing pesticides into Canada requires tons of paperwork and approvals. The Pest Control Act allows an exception for personal pest products but it requires the value of the product to be less than $10. This allows Customs to refuse let bear spray cross the border since it is a pesticide and exceeds the $10 safe harbor.

Health Canada requested that Customs consider bear spray as a pesticide and not a weapon and to ignore the $10 exception limit. Eventually, Customs acquiesed. So... bear spray marked as a bear deterrent by the manufacturer and specifically stating that it is not intended for use on humans (must also be a bear-sized can... no little concealable pocket sprays) will pass thru Customs.

Note... it MUST be declared. Pepper spray is on a Firearms Prohibition Order and is considered a prohibited weapon. Failure to do so can have really bad consequences... especially if your spray can doesn't have the requisite labeling and gets construed as the human use type. That can land you behind Canadian bars for quite some time.

Canada Customs can send you a paper describing the characteristics a spray must have to be acceptable at the border (classified as a pesticide and not a weapon). You have to call them and get a Customs Officer who will send it to you. I am waiting to receive my paper though I already know what it will say.

The Customs Officer said that it would be good to have the paper from Customs with you at the border to show to the Customs Agent. He also said that with a lot of kayaking equipment, a good way to get through Customs quickly is to have a list or inventory of all your equipment for the Customs agent to review, if he/she chooses to do so. That also solves your declaration problems as they don't like failure to declare things and can be quite nasty when you hide things.

Note... the Customs official also had no concerns about bringing in a VHF radio without a Ship Station License and RT Operator permit. I will declare my 2 Standard Horizon 350's as weather radios on my inventory and that should suffice. Even if they didn't like bringing them across (since they are on a list of radios requiring licensing for US users in Canada), they would simply hold them until we returned and give them back to us. If they were not declared, they would be confiscated.

Safe Paddling!

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Bear Spray in Canada