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Unlike the United States, Canada has a parliamentary democratic system wherein the “majority rules.” This means that a majority is needed in Parliament in order to pass a new act, which was the case with the Firearms Act of 1995. In addition to “grading” firearms as non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited, the act also covered various other weapons, including knives and spray devices. Pepper spray, as we commonly think of it as a defense mechanism against a human attacker, is technically illegal in Canada. However, there is a loophole in the law.

Prohibited Weapon

Under Canada’s Firearms Act, pepper spray is considered a prohibited weapon, meaning it cannot be produced or sold in Canada. Other prohibited weapons include handguns, fully automatic rifles, and certain types of knives, particularly the butterfly and gravity varieties. According to cbsa.asfc.gc.ca, Canadian law also prohibits the manufacture, sale and use of products that are similar to pepper spray, and specifies that any gas, powder, or liquid spray that is capable of injuring or immobilizing a person is prohibited (this includes the brand-name product Mace).

Bringing Pepper Spray into Canada

Firearms that are classified as un-restricted, such as hunting rifles, can be brought into Canada from the United States. According to travel.state.gov, all you need to do is fill out a Non-Resident Declaration form at the border. Under certain circumstances, restricted firearms, such as some semiautomatic weapons, can also be brought in, although you will need to obtain an Authorization to Transport permit from a territorial or provincial Firearms Office. Pepper spray, however, under its prohibited classification, is not allowed into the country. If you are caught in (or going into) Canada with pepper spray, you could be prosecuted and potentially imprisoned.

Loophole

While it seems pretty straightforward that pepper spray is illegal in Canada, laws can sometimes be confusing and hard to interpret, as panda.com points out. According to this source, pepper spray can be legally purchased and used in Canada, but only when certain conditions apply. First, the spray must clearly indicate on its dispenser that it is intended for animal and not human use (the most common animals these sprays are designed for are bears and dogs). And second, the spray must qualify as a pest control product under Canada’s Pest Control Product Act. Keep in mind that if you are caught using a bear or dog repellent like a conventional pepper spray (for example, you carry it around with you on the street or on a bus), you can still be charged with a crime.