Risks to Canada

The risk is real

Every traveller entering Canada has a key role to play in protecting Canada's animals, plants and environment.

All undeclared food, plants, animals, and related products brought into Canada by travellers are potential threats to the health of Canadians and Canada's environment. Many different kinds of items can introduce foreign threats into Canada. These include things as diverse as:

  • foods, such as sausages, potatoes and fruit,
  • homemade articles, such as feather boas, or items made from plants or wood,
  • live birds, and
  • plant cuttings from family gardens

Food can carry animal diseases or plant viruses.

Plants and plant products can carry invasive alien species, such as insects, harmful micro-organisms, viruses, fungi and bacteria.

In 2003, it was estimated that the annual loss of revenue caused by invasive alien species in Canada could amount to $16.6 billion.

Animals and animal products can carry diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease. An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could close export markets for Canadian cattle, swine, sheep and other livestock species. Border closures could last for months and the economic losses could be measured in the billions of dollars.

Even a single incident can pose a serious risk to our plant and animal health. This in turn can endanger our food supply, the agricultural sector, the economy, the environment—and even human health.

Small pests with a big impact

Some foreign species could become harmful pests when brought into Canada. These species are referred to as "invasive alien species". They include all living things: animals, fish, plants, insects and micro-organisms.

Invasive alien species are predators, competitors, parasites or diseases that could harm our native plants and animals.

When these species are introduced to new environments, they can spread and cause serious and often irreversible damage to native ecosystems and to society. Invasive alien species are estimated to cost our industries billions of dollars in lost revenues every year.

Invasive alien species may be introduced by human activity such as trade and travel. They come from other continents and neighbouring countries. They can also come from different ecosystems within Canada. They are the second most significant threat to biodiversity, after habitat loss.

Some of the best known invasive alien species include emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, purple loosestrife, rats, green crabs, zebra mussels, Dutch elm disease and West Nile virus.

To protect Canada from invasive alien species, remember to "Be Aware and Declare". When returning to Canada from another country, declare all foods, animals, plants and related products at customs.

Combatting the Risk

The risks posed by undeclared food, plants and animals are real. They threaten our food supply. They threaten Canada's agriculture industry and economy. They threaten our environment and natural resources.

Avoid contact with farmed animals (including poultry), zoo animals or wildlife for 14 days after you arrive in Canada if you were exposed to similar animals in other countries.

Avoid visiting Canadian farms for 14 days if you visited a farm or had contact with wild birds while abroad.

The footwear you wore should be disinfected and your clothing washed thoroughly and dried at a high temperature.

Be sure to complete the areas of your Customs Declaration Card regarding farm visits.

By knowing the risks and taking the appropriate actions, each traveller entering the country can help protect Canada and Canadians. You can do your part. The next time you travel, be aware and declare!

Date modified: