Be Aware and Declare!

September 06, 2021
Ottawa Journal (September 06 – September 10, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

When traveling abroad, it’s important to be aware of what items we may bring back into Canada because of the risk they may pose to our food supply, agricultural industry, environment, and economy. In order to ensure we protect ourselves and our country, be sure to declare everything when returning to Canada - it’s simply not worth the potential consequences.

Many travelers often fail to report items they bring into Canada, such as meat, animal hides, live birds, plants, and fruit because they’re unaware of the potential hazards of such commodities. However, the hazards are very real and can pose a significant threat to our country. In 2003, it was estimated that the annual loss of revenue caused by invasive alien species in Canada amounted to $35 billion.

Food items can carry animal diseases or plant viruses. Plant and plant products can carry meddlesome alien species, such as insects, harmful micro-organisms, viruses, fungi, and bacteria, which could have a devastating impact on our agricultural industry and environment. Furthermore, animal and animal products can carry diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease. An outbreak of such a disease could close export markets for Canadian cattle, swine, sheep, and other livestock species, costing this industry potentially billions of dollars. 

Canadian law requires that you declare all food, plants, and animals and related products you bring into Canada. Failure to declare can result in the confiscation of products, fines of up to $400 per undeclared item, and prosecution. In order to avoid such problems and potential expense, you can use the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), to help in determining import requirements. AIRS is a user-friendly, searchable database of CFIA’s import requirements. The system asks users a series of questions and provides answers, which lead to the applicable regulations and policies to information on all CFIA import requirements for the specific commodity being researched by the user. AIRS is intended to provide accurate and accessible information to travelers and importers on Canada’s import requirements.

AIRS can be found at: You can also contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Border Information Service (BIS) for more information at: 1-800-461-9999. BIS is a computerized, 24-hour telephone service that automatically answers all incoming calls and provides general border services information. The information is divided into the following categories: personal traveler, business importation/exportation, currency exchange rates, and coming to Canada. If you require more in-depth information related to a topic, you can speak directly to an agent during regular business hours, Monday to Friday (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. local time, except holidays).

By becoming informed of the risks and researching Canadian import requirements before traveling abroad, we can each do our part to protect ourselves and our country.