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Can I Carry A Knife in Canada?

Updated: Jan 25

every day items like a knife

  • In Canada, it's not illegal to carry a knife per se; but, it is illegal to carry a knife for the purposes of self-defense.

  • Intent matters: Carrying a knife for the purposes of self-defense is illegal. But simply carrying a knife around is not illegal.

  • If you're approached by law enforcement and you indicate the knife is for self-defense, you could face legal repercussions.

A Hypothetical Scenario: Can I Carry A Knife in Self-Defense?

Picture this: You're strolling around, lost in thought, when a police officer approaches you for a casual check. During this check, they find a knife on you.

"Oh, that? It's just for slicing apples during my break," you explain. In this case, the police officer will dismiss you assuming that you're using the knife as a handy tool (assuming it's of a legal size and type, but more on that below).

But, let's tweak that circumstances.

Suppose you said, "I keep it on me for self defense, just in case."

Suddenly, that harmless pocket tool transforms into a potential weapon in the eyes of the law.

Your harmless intention to stay safe could be perceived as premeditated readiness to cause harm, even if it's in the name of self-defense.

The difference? A single sentence.

The takeaway? While you might see a protective device, the law might spot a looming sword.

Be aware of how you present your reasons to police for carrying potentially dangerous items. It's not just the item, but how you intend to use it that could land you in legal hot water.

The Knife Dilemma: It's All About Intent in Canada

Carrying a knife in Canada isn't necessarily illegal. The law isn’t just concerned about the knife in your pocket; it’s how you intend to use it that really matters.

Canadian law makes a distinction between tools and weapons. Sure, that pocket knife might be for cutting open packages or slicing an apple, but the moment you admit it's being carried for self-defense, you could be charged.

Why? Because in Canada, the mere thought of using an item for self-defense, especially a knife, can be perceived as having a potentially harmful intent.

a knife and phone

You may be charged with:

  1. Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose (Section 88): If someone carries a knife or any object considered to be a weapon and has the intention to harm another person, even if it's for self-defense, they could be charged. The onus is on the prosecution to prove the intent.

  2. Carrying a Concealed Weapon (Section 90): If you're found carrying a knife concealed without a legitimate reason, you could be charged under this section. Again, if you claim the knife is for self-defense, it might be seen as intent to harm.

  3. Unauthorized Possession Of a Prohibited or Restricted Weapon (Section 91): Some knives, like switchblades or gravity knives, are prohibited in Canada, so simply possessing one without a proper license can lead to this charge.

  4. Possession Of a Weapon Contrary to an Order (Section 117.01): If someone has been prohibited by the court from possessing a weapon and they are found with one, they can be charged under this section.

Can I Carry A Pocket Knife In Canada For Self-Defense?

You can't carry a pocket knife with the intention of using it for self-defense.

You can technically carry a pocket knife for everyday utility purposes, like opening boxes, but you risk a police officer not believing you.

Common kitchen knives, utility knives and hunting knives, when used for their intended lawful purpose, are generally accepted as legal.

Can You Carry A Knife In Your Bag In Canada?

You can carry a knife in your bag as long as it isn’t a prohibited knife and isn't intended to be used as a weapon. Prohibited knives in Canada include:

  • Automatic knives (switchblades)

  • Gravity knives

  • Constant Companion (belt-buckle knife)

  • Finger rings with blades or other sharp objects

  • Push daggers

  • Any knife that can be opened by centrifugal force (by flicking it open)

  • Instruments with hidden knife blades

  • Bracelets or wristbands with spikes

  • Buckles with hidden blades

  • Nunchaku and shurikens

  • Dagger-like push knives

What Size Knife Is Legal To Carry In Canada?

In Canada there's no specified blade length that makes it legal or not. The knife's legality is determined by the purpose of carrying the knife and its design.

Is A Knife A Prohibited Weapon?

Yes, under Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code, certain types of knives are classified as "prohibited weapons" such as those with blades that can swiftly open through gravity, centrifugal force, or other locking mechanisms.

Essentially, this means knives that can be quickly deployed, like switchblades or gravity knives, fall under the definition of a prohibited weapon.

What Can I Carry For Self Defense In Canada?

Canada has strict laws about weapons, including those for self-defense.

Here's a scenario: Imagine carrying a flashlight during a nighttime walk.

If you're using it to light your path, and it becomes an impromptu tool for defense against an aggressor, the legal perspective may be more understanding.

This is because your primary intention was illumination, not aggression. Some items you can consider:

  • Coyote & Dog spray: SABRE Dog Spray to protect yourself from all the wild animals in your life ...

  • Personal alarms: Personal alarms that emit a loud noise to draw attention like the She's Birdie alarm.

  • Flashlights: Useful for illumination and temporarily disorienting someone if shone in their eyes.

  • Self-defense classes: Investing in training can provide tools and techniques to defend yourself without weapons.

Wrapping Up

While the legal language specifies which tools are considered prohibited, it's the intent behind carrying them that often carries the most weight.

For similar self-defense questions, take a look at our self-defense ultimate guide or explanations on whether brass knuckles are legal in Canada.


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