Appealing Customs Seizures

In addition to immigration law, Larlee Rosenberg also represents individuals who have had goods seized by customs.  Our practice includes both administrative appeals, as well as federal court actions.

Section 110 of the Customs Act provides that:

Seizure of goods or conveyances

110. (1) An officer may, where he believes on reasonable grounds that this Act or the regulations have been contravened in respect of goods, seize as forfeit

(a) the goods; or

(b) any conveyance that the officer believes on reasonable grounds was made use of in respect of the goods, whether at or after the time of the contravention.

From thousands of dollars being hidden in socks to diamond rings in the steering wheel to cars, the types of goods which are seized vary tremendously.

People who have had goods seized and who wish to appeal an officer’s decision to forfeit the goods can appeal both to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and, if that fails, make an application in Federal Court.

It is important to note that both the appeal to the Minister and the action in Federal Court are actions de novo. The practical implication of this is that people wishing to appeal a decision can present fresh evidence.  As recently held by the Federal Court in Starway v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2010 FC 1208, this means that there can be examination and cross-examination, and ultimately a decision by a judge regarding whether the act was breached.

If the court finds that the decision to seize and forfeit was unreasonable, then any money seized will be returned.

If you have had goods seized and want to fight what you consider an injustice, but at the same time are not sure if you want to hire a lawyer… do not fret: In Starway the individual was unrepresented. And he won.

Having said that, I would advise that you at least consult with a lawyer so that you understand the process ahead.  And, if you ultimately decide that you want to hire a lawyer at either the Ministerial review stage or the Federal court action, then Larlee Rosenberg is happy to help.

As well, for more information on appealing Customs Seizures you may want to consult the CBSA Enforcement Manual.  To the best of my knowledge, the CBSA Enforcement Manual is not publicly available.  However, we have obtained a copy of it through an Access to Information and Privacy Act request and have made it available for purchase on this blog.   The price for this document, which is a massive 1,274 pages, is $32.95.  Our goal in providing the CBSA Enforcement Manual is to help you save valuable research time, and to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how the CBSA operates.  Please note, however, that this document is current only as of 2012, and may not reflect any updates since then (although there have not been any updates to it to my knowledge).

© All rights reserved. Canada Border Services Agency. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.


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