Attorney Asks Knife Community to Support Canadian Constitutional Challenge

canadian knife laws feature

Last week, we reported that a Canadian Member of Parliament would be introducing a petition in the House of Commons to overturn a decision by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is using as justification to seize most pocket knives on their way into the country.

Now, Susan von Achten, a prominent Toronto-based defense attorney, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to back her constitutional challenge to section 84(1) of the Criminal Code in the Superior Court of Justice on behalf of Canadian knife users and the knife industry. Von Achten also reveals that pocket knife seizures and arrests are already a reality in Toronto and that Police have been mistakenly targeting the tools long before the CITT ruling.

“The situation is so bad that lawyers themselves often don’t understand the difference [between switchblades and other one-handed opening pocket knives]. Some lawyers may have been mistakenly pleading their clients guilty not knowing they haven’t broken the law,” she reports.

von Achten has been defending Canadian knife rights since 2009, when one of her clients, a west-end Toronto knife dealer, was arrested and had approximately 200 pocket knives seized by Toronto police. In 2012, the same client was again arrested and had 700 more pocket knives confiscated because they were mistaken for switchblades. “My client kept being charged by the police and we’ve had hundreds of charges thrown out,” she says. “The police weren’t properly instructed in this area.”

von Achten tells us part of the problem is Canada’s criminal code is already too vague and CITT’s decision makes matters worse.

“The Canadian people and law enforcement have every right to know what is legal and what is not legal. The CITT decision creates a conflict between Section 84 of the Criminal Code and the legal authority of T. Laplante vs CBSA. So we have to challenge the constitutionality of that decision and the vagueness and overbreadth of Section 84 of the Criminal Code,” von Achten explains.

A constitutional challenge could take years to be decided. But von Achten tells us interim steps like getting a court order to force Canada Border Services Agency to allow the importation of all pocket knives is a realistic short-term objective until the court can rule on the matter.

“If we don’t do it every Canadian in possession of a one-handed opening pocket knife is at risk of being arrested and losing their freedom to use these tools. We need to straighten out the law,” she says.

Since 2009, von Achten has defended 11 pocket knife related cases and she’s won every time. The nature of her profession requires that she sometimes represent clients who have committed despicable crimes. von Achten tells us the knife cases have come as a welcome change of pace for her. “Our system only works if everyone accused of a crime has access to a strong legal defense, but there’s nothing like fighting for law abiding citizens when their liberty is on the line.”

With millions of dollars of knives being exported to Canada, von Achten hopes the knife community, including manufacturers and knife dealers in the US and Canada, will get behind her GoFundMe campaign so that they can continue to do business inside the country. Since the campaign went live, Jamie Quinn of GPKnives.com has joined KnifeNews as an early backer of the campaign.

“The more money we can raise the more time and resources we can put into this case and the better our chances,” she says. “This affects so many Canadians that depend on these tools; first responders, outdoorsmen, people who need them to do their jobs.”

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