Guide to Import Restrictions in Canada

After the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many import and export barriers between the United States and Canada were reduced. Merchants are free to ship goods back and forth without having to file Electronic Export Information (EEI), except under specific circumstances.

However, there are subtle differences in restrictions that can be confusing for American exporters. International trade finance companies can help with local market insights and on-site support that simplifies the import/export process. Find out what exporters need to know about federal and provincial regulations when shipping goods to Canada.

Commercial Goods

Certain consumer products are prohibited or restricted by law from entering Canada. The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) outlines products that may be detained by authorities if they fail to meet certification standards. These regulations are stricter in Canada than in many other countries.

Prohibited Items

Some items are banned from import, sale, and advertisement in Canada.

  • Relight candles – These joke candles are banned due to fire hazard.
  • Long yo-yos – Cords may not exceed 20 inches because of strangulation risks.
  • Balloon blowing toys – Some kits contain chemicals that can be toxic when inhaled.
  • Baby walkers – Because of the risk of injury, these products cannot be imported.
  • Self-feeding devices – These products, designed for infants, can present a choking hazard.
  • Jequirity beans – This type of bean is poisonous, and consumption can be fatal.

In addition to these items, any consumer products with safety warnings or requirements should be checked to ensure they are permitted in Canada.

Restricted Items

Other products are highly regulated and must meet a list of requirements to avoid detainment at the border.

  • Car seats – All car seats must have a National Safety Seal according to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). Additionally, you must include instructions and manufacturing information on the product itself in both English and French. Car seats must have a harness restraint system, and forward-facing seats must have a tether-strap.
  • Hockey helmets – Ice hockey helmets and face protectors must meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards Z262.1 and Z262.2. Face protectors must be secured to the helmet or have labeled instructions if sold separately. Additionally, the manufacturing date must be visible.
  • Lighters – All lighters must have a label that reads, "KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN/TENIR HORS DE LA PORTÉE DES ENFANTS." Refillable lighters must have refill instructions in both English and French along with a label showing the address of the importer.

For information about prohibited and restricted consumer products, check import regulations at the Government of Canada website.

Packaging and Labeling Requirements

Exporters are required to abide by labeling and packaging laws when shipping goods to Canada. There are three primary statements you'll have to include on the label.

  • Product identity – The product identity can include a generic name or description of the function.
  • Net quantity – Liquids and gases should be measured in metric units of volume. Metric units of weight are used for solids, and numerical count when the product is sold in individual units.
  • Exporter's name and address – Products must include a postal address and name of the manufacturer.

For more information about language, font, text size, and other label requirements, refer to the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.

Licenses and Permits

Certain exports to Canada may require licenses and permits. These licenses must be obtained from both federal and provincial government agencies. Find out more about license and permit requirements.

Canada's Centre of Administration for Permissions or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) processes applications for import licenses. The Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) will help you identify import license and permit requirements as established by the CFIA.

Provincial Restrictions

Different municipalities in Canada have different import requirements and other legal obligations that may not involve permits.

Alberta – In Alberta, you may be required to register your business according to provisions under the Fair Trading Act. If you plan to develop a new life sciences product, you'll also need special permissions.

British Columbia – Companies working with natural resources, such as agriculture, mining, or water, need licenses in British Columbia from FrontCounter BC.

New Brunswick – The Government of New Brunswick services for business website can help exporters obtain the necessary forms, permits, and licenses.

New Foundland and Labrador – To do business in these provinces, you'll need to contact the Government Service Centre.

Nova ScotiaAccess Nova Scotia has information on obtaining required permits and provincial government programs. Business Navigators will help you identify rules and regulations that can affect your business in Canada. You can apply for permits directly at the Nova Scotia Online Service for Business.

Ontario – Your tobacco exports to Canada require a Tobacco Retail Dealer's Permit.

Quebec – In Quebec, special permits are required for fuel, tobacco, film distribution, and agricultural imports.

Remember that in addition to federal import regulations, you also have to comply with provincial laws and restrictions. You may also have to pay duties under the Special Import Measures Act on goods that cost less than they would in their country of origin.

Final Thoughts

Having your goods turned away at border control is the worst-case scenario for exporters. Product regulations in Canada are stricter than in the US and can require permits, licenses, and other paperwork to ensure compliance.

If you require financing for your exports, supply chain financing companies can help with non-recourse export factoring. Working with an international trade finance company like Tradewind Finance will give you access to full credit protection and cross-border support for your exports to Canada.