Is Carrying A Pocket Knife Legal In Canada?
Pocket knives are common tools that many Canadians carry for utility purposes. However, there are laws around carrying knives in public places that Canadians should know. Here is an overview of the legality of carrying pocket knives in Canada.
What Counts As A Pocket Knife?
A pocket knife is a foldable knife with one or more blades that fits inside a pocket. Common types of pocket knives include Swiss Army knives, tactical folders, traditional slip-joint pocket knives, and locking-blade knives. The legality of carrying a pocket knife often depends on factors like the length of the blade and whether it can be opened with one hand.
Canadian Criminal Code Regulations
In Canada, the Criminal Code regulates what types of knives can be legally carried. Section 90 of the code prohibits carrying “prohibited weapons”, which includes:
- Knives that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle (i.e. switchblades).
- Knives that have blades that open by centrifugal force (i.e. centrifugal knives).
- Knives that have blades over 10 cm (3.9 inches) in length, with the exception of hunting knives.
So pocket knives with shorter, non-spring assisted blades are generally legal to carry under the Criminal Code. Locking blades and one-handed opening knives are also usually allowed. However, municipalities and provinces can impose further restrictions.
Municipal and Provincial Regulations
While the Criminal Code sets out baseline regulations, local jurisdictions can enact additional knife laws. For example, in many cities there are municipal bylaws banning possession of knives in parks, schools, government buildings and other public places.
Some provinces also have additional restrictions. For instance, in Ontario the Police Services Act allows police to seize any item they deem dangerous to public safety during an interaction. So even if a pocket knife is legal, Ontario police officers have broad discretion to confiscate it.
In Quebec, the law is more restrictive. Section 82 of the Municipal Powers Act gives municipalities the power to prohibit carrying ANY knife in a public place, even folding pocket knives.
Justification for Carrying
If stopped by police while carrying a pocket knife, it is advisable to proactively mention why you have it. Carrying a knife for a legitimate purpose like camping, fishing, or your job is more likely to be seen as reasonable than carrying one casually or for self-defense. Being upfront about your reason for carrying shows you do not intend to use the knife as a weapon.
While legal across most of Canada, it is best practice to research municipal laws before carrying a pocket knife, even a legal one.
Following all applicable laws and being transparent with officers helps avoid issues. And consider whether carrying a knife is necessary for the activities you plan to engage in. Exercising caution and common sense goes a long way in staying on the right side of the law when it comes to pocket knives.