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Have a Problem with Canadian Customs?

The Customs Act is a highly important piece of legislation that controls the administration and enforcement of customs laws. It describes the framework for controlling the import and export of products, collecting taxes and levies, and monitoring and inspecting goods as they enter and exit the nation. The Customs Act’s key features include the following: regulation of important and exports; duties and taxes; authority to enforce the Act; maintaining border security by regulating the flow of certain goods and people across borders; facilitating trade by steamlining administrative procedures; procedures for appeals; and allows for international co-operation.

What is the Role of the Customs Act?

The Customs Act sets out regulations for important export. In other words, the Customs Act establishes the legal framework for the management of commodities entering into and leaving from Canada. This covers the need to declare items, get the required licenses and permissions, and follow rules and regulations regarding what may and cannot be sold.

According to the Act, importers and exporters are obligated to provide correct and comprehensive information about the commodities that they are intending to sell. This covers statements on the kind, worth, place of origin, and end destination of products. It also mandates that records pertaining to customs transactions be kept up-to-date.

The Act offers mechanisms and procedures for people and companies to challenge decisions made by customs officials. This is called appeals and reviews and includes the ability to ask for an examination of decisions made about fines, assessments of duties, and seizures.

The Customs Act allows for the negotiation and execution of international agreements pertaining to customs matters. This entails working together with other nations and global institutions to enforce customs laws and promote trade.

In order to safeguard Canadian businesses from unfair trade practices, the Act provides pathways and mechanisms for the implementation of specific import measures, such as anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Within the legal context, a countervailing duty is a specific kind of tariff that a nation imposes on imported goods, in order to offset the subsidies given to its producers by the government of the exporting country. The main purpose of these “countervailing duties” is to level the playing field for domestic industries that could otherwise be at a competitive disadvantage as a result of the foreign subsidies.

What kind of Enforcement Powers does it have?

The Customs Act of Canada generally gives customs officers the authority to enforce customs laws and regulations. These powers might include the ability to examine, detain, and seize goods and automobiles that are reasonably believed to be in violation of customs laws.

Generally speaking, customs officers have the power to further investigate persons, vehicles, and property without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicions that a crime has been committed. They also have the authority to search documents, records, and other things associated with customs-related transactions. People who are suspected of smuggling or other customs offences may be searched, seized, detained, and, if necessary, arrested by customs officers. Note that these kinds of situations can be tricky to navigate and therefore it is highly advisable to seek experienced legal counsel to ensure the best legal outcomes.

Additionally, the Customs Act enables products to be inspected to confirm their origin, value, and classification, ensuring that all duties and taxes are correctly applied and collected. Additionally, customs officers have the authority to file lawsuits and impose administrative penalties on people or companies that break customs rules. These enforcement authorities are essential for protecting Canada’s borders, stopping illicit activities like smuggling, and making sure that all commodities entering and departing the nation comply with the relevant laws and regulations.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

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What are the Penalties and Offences if I break the Customs Act?

Duty evasion, deceit, and smuggling are only a few of the offences connected to customs actions that are included in the Customs Act. Penalties, incarceration, and property seizure are all possible outcomes of violating the Customs Act. Underreporting or misclassifying products on purpose is known as duty evasion, and it is done to avoid paying the correct amount of taxes and charges. Falsifying paperwork or giving false information to customs officers are examples of deception. The illicit import or export of commodities without declaring them to customs authorities is known as smuggling.

Depending on how serious the violation is, there are different penalties for certain violations. More serious violations may result in criminal prosecution, whereas minor breaches may only result in administrative consequences such as fines. Serious customs offence convictions can result in significant fines and jail time. Furthermore, products implicated in customs violations may be seized and forfeited, which means the government may claim ownership of them. By enforcing these fines, the Customs Act seeks to ensure compliance with customs procedures and discourage illicit operations.

What’s a Crime in Canada?

What Needs to be Declared at Canada’s Customs?

Declare everything you’re bringing into Canada using the Customs Declaration Card. This includes everything that you must pay duty on, including commercial goods, plants, food, animals, firearms or other weapons, and items like gifts, alcohol, and tobacco. Do not forget to include any amounts of money above $10,000.

You might be at risk of receiving a fine or even jail time if you fail to disclose these items to the authorities.

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Recent Cases

R. v. Canfield, 2020 ABCA 383

In the case of R. v. Canfield and Townsend (2020), the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the lack of a threshold requirement for examining digital devices at the border was unconstitutional. The Court held that while digital devices are considered “goods” under the Customs Act, the highly intrusive nature of their search requires substantial justification. This decision underscored the need for a more substantial threshold than currently provided by section 99(1)(a) of the Customs Act, which was found to violate section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ruling highlighted the evolving nature of privacy rights in the context of digital information​.

Angang Steel Company Limited v. Canada (Border Services Agency), 2020 FCA 67, [2020] 3 FCR 179

In Angang Steel Company Limited v. Canada (Border Services Agency), 2020 FCA 67, the Federal Court of Appeal dealt with issues relating to the enforcement of the Special Import Measures Act (SIMA) under the broader context of the Customs Act. The case involved Angang Steel Company Limited challenging the decisions made by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) regarding anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on certain steel products imported from China.

Angang Steel argued that the CBSA had incorrectly calculated the normal value and export price of their goods, leading to an unfair imposition of duties. The core of the dispute centered around the methodologies used by the CBSA in their calculations and whether these methodologies were consistent with the provisions of SIMA and the Customs Act.

The Federal Court of Appeal examined the statutory framework governing the CBSA’s authority and its adherence to procedural fairness. The Court upheld the CBSA’s decisions, emphasizing that the methodologies employed were reasonable and fell within the agency’s broad discretionary powers. The decision emphasizes the Court’s deference to the CBSA’s expertise in matters related to trade and customs enforcement. It re-affirms the principles that guide the imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

This case shows the rigorous standards and procedures that the CBSA must follow in enforcing the Customs Act and SIMA, and it demonstrates the judiciary’s role in reviewing the reasonableness and fairness of these enforcement actions. The holding is particularly important because it shows us the delicate balance between protecting domestic industries from unfair trade practices and ensuring that importers are treated in a fair manner under Canadian trade laws.

R. v. Jones, 2006 CanLII 28086 (ON CA)

In this case, the Court of Appeal addressed a number of important Customs Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms problems. In this case, Jones, the appellant, was found guilty of bringing 849 grams of cocaine into Canada. At Pearson International Airport, Jones was detained by Customs officers following his arrival on an aircraft from Jamaica, which is considered a drug-risky route.

While the defendant was being questioned, the customs officials noted that the defendant was suspiciously avoiding eye contact. Moreover, Mr. Jones was not able to identify his travel agency, and thus the officials determined that further investigation was necessary. The defendant went on to tell falsehoods about his job, where he lived, and whether or not he was married during secondary interrogation. Under the suspicion that something was wrong, the customs officials chose to x-ray his suitcase. Subsequently, they found cocaine hidden inside.

Jones asserted that the exclusion of his comments to customs authorities, made under legislative force, should be based on the protection against self-incrimination provided by section 7 of the Charter. He claimed that routine interrogation by Customs officers violated his right to remain silent and to be exempt from self-incrimination by creating an adversarial and coercive environment.

The Court ultimately dismissed these arguments. The Court stated that regular searches and interrogations at the border do not raise the same constitutional issues as those that take place inside Canada. The Court argued that since there is no expectation of privacy or right to silence at the border, the principles of self-incrimination do not require the removal of utterances made during regular border questioning. The Court also said that routine searches and interrogations are justified since efficient border control is an important public interest.

The Court ultimately upheld the conviction and 40-month prison sentence after it conceded that Jones’s lies that he told to customs authorities constituted circumstantial evidence of his awareness that he had cocaine in his bag. The ruling highlights how tricky it might be to strike an ideal balance between individual rights and the state’s interest in maintaining border security and stopping illicit activities. It also shows how the Customs Act authorizes tough border enforcement procedures without breaching constitutional rights in usual instances.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.