Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Canada Border Services Agency Inspects Valentines Day Flowers Imports for Hidden "Gifts"

This time every year, millions of flowers are imported into Canada from South America (for example, Ecuador and Colombia). Just like their American counterparts, in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) steps up inspections of imports of flowers into Canada. The CBSA x-rays the millions of boxes of flowers (roses, chrysanthemums, gerbera daisies, Peruvian lilies and dozens of other varieties popular every Feb. 14) looking for drugs. There is a long history of inclusion of cocaine and other drugs in boxes of flowers because the fragrance of the flowers masks the scent of drugs.

The CBSA officials are also inspecting the shipments for foreign and dangerous pests/insects that will cause harm to the Canadian eco-system or people (e.g. black widow spiders). If a shipment has not been properly fumigated/treated or if pests included in other shipments of flowers contaminate/migrate from other shipments, a shipment may be detained and seized (and even destroyed). This means that buyers of flowers from South America may not receive their shipments when needed if the shippers and exporters do not exercise care.

If the CBSA finds drugs in a shipment, they would work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch the importer of record or other person who has knowledge of the inclusion of drugs in the shipment. The CBSA does not give out its secrets on how it pursues those engaged in criminal activities.

If the shipment includes pests, the CBSA will charge inspection and fumigation fees. The CBSA also has the power to impose administrative monetary penalties.

The biggest problem for law-abiding importers of legitimate shipments is delays caused by the inspection process and the seizure and detention of shipments that have been contaminated during flight or shipment. Canadian importers may face two lawyers of inspection as a significant percentage of shipments of flowers from South America travel through Miami and can be stopped by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection before being loaded on trucks for shipment to Canada.

Canadian buyers who wish to avoid delays must exercise best practices and greater care. Knowing that the problems exist helps in minimizing risk of delays. The risk minimization starts in the foreign jurisdiction and engaging in business with growers/sellers who protect do not engage in illegal activities and undertake supply chain security. In addition, risk minimization includes ensuring each shipment is properly cleaned and fumigated (which may involve having an agent on the ground). Contamination is reduced by good packaging practices and using reputable shippers who take security and pest detection and elimination seriously.

For more information, please contact us.

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