Canadian Customs

Taking a particular interest in banning gay material

18th December

Offsite: Customarily Targeting Gays...

Canadian Customs impound shipments to gay book shops

Despite gay marriage and other actions, Canadian customs officers have been quietly but systematically blocking U.S.-made erotica. Their actions have had the effect of severely limiting free speech. Lest you think this is only about curtailing the masturbatory options of law-abiding Canadians and wreaking havoc on the profit margin of of the sex-industry, it is, in fact, a broad assault on civil liberties that should worry people on both sides of the extensive border.

Bound only by vague, randomly implemented policies and consumed with targeting material created to engage, educate and, yes, titillate the local LGBT community, the Canadian customs service (a.k.a. the Canadian Border Services Agency, or CBSA) regularly impounds whole shipments to adult bookstores. Despite a landmark 2000 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, the CBSA continues to seize material which it deems obscene.

Read the full article


25th April

Update: A Change on the Books...

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Little Sisters to pass on the fight with Canadian Customs

They've been bombed three times, received death threats and stood before the red-robed justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.

No, Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth are not killers or terrorists. The soft-spoken Vancouver men sell books. And in some peoples' eyes, Deva says, that made the gay owners of Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium dangerous.

Only two years after the store opened in 1983, the owners took on a fight that bolstered and exhausted them, lasting until just last year and challenging Canada's censorship laws.

After 23 years of fighting Canada Customs' seizures of books bound for the gay and lesbian bookshop, the partners have put Little Sister's up for sale.

It's time to do something else, Deva says as he plans to get a choir booked for the store's 25th anniversary celebrations: It's probably time to pass on the torch hopefully to some younger, energetic people who are willing to work with our store. I'm not in a rush. We're going to take our time.

The fight against Customs put the store at the forefront of the battle against censorship in Canada. Among books seized were Jean Genet's Querelle , Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant , Joe Orton's Prick Up Your Ears , The Joy of Gay Sex and The Joy of Lesbian Sex .

I think it's our tenacity. We just wouldn't give up and came back again and again at them from every angle we could figure out.

But after all the court battles, Deva believes Canada Customs has developed a respect for the gay community's literature and imagery: They know that . . . when they make a sort of pronouncement on a book that they may well have to defend that. We still disagree with the process but it's certainly fairer than it was 20 years ago.


16th November

Update: Customs Piss on Canadians...

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Canadian customs publish list of banned titles

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has released its third quarter listing of videos it won't allow into the country because it has decided they are obscene.

Agents carefully screened 119 porn DVDs between July and September for what the CBSA calls obscene content. Seventy nine of those titles were turned back at the border.

The CBSA publishes a lengthy list of qualifiers that determine its definition of obscenity. Along with the usual chestnuts of bestiality, necrophilia and sexual assault, agents are instructed to ban films that include things like watersports, bondage and domination and what it oddly calls sex with pain.

Apparently attitudes at the CBSA have become more liberal over the last few years. Before Nov 2005, any film that included watersports action netted an instant ban at the border. But in a CBSA internal memo released to Xtra through an access to information request, screeners were told, The Canadian community will now tolerate consensual urination onto another person. [onto but not into!]

Here's a list of some of the more interesting banned films that were arbitrarily deemed obscene:

Europeein Vol 1, Europeein Vol 2
Frat Piss: The Hazing of Kaleb Scott
Kaleb Scott's Piss Party Weekend
San Francisco Lesbian Bondage Club 1 & 2
Triga's Piss Tapes Vol 1
Yellow! Triga's Piss Tapes, Vol 2
Amazing Lactations #2: Bondage
Sex Slaves of Satan
Femmes De Sade
The Jackbooth Job


26th January

Update: Pissed Off by Customs...

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Canadian Customs and its quarterly gay unfriendly banned list

The Canada Border Services Agency won't let one of Damien Crosse's recent films into the country. Raging Stallion Studio's fetish flick Piss Off was recently deemed to be obscene by Canada's border censors.

That's because CBSA says the ingestion of someone else's urine... with a sexual purpose is an indicator of obscenity. Even if it's consensual.

The border agency considers the act of urinating into someone degrading and dehumanizing, with a risk of substantial harm.

Harm , by CBSA's terms, isn't even about whether piss is bad for you. Instead, Harm in this context means that the material predisposes persons to act in an anti-social manner; in other words, in a manner which society recognizes as incompatible with its proper functioning.

Anti-social manner? Society's proper functioning? Why is porn held to Victorian-era morality standards?

Piss Off is just the latest in a string of gay films pornographic and PG-rated that have faced barriers at the Canadian border. In CBSA's latest quarterly list of prohibited items (PDF), the agency also banned the Titan Media film Shock Treatment , among dozens of other DVDS and books.


20th March

Update: Manga is Not a Crime...

Man arrested by Canadian Customs re Manga comics has been cleared of criminal charges

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund are pleased to announce that the Crown has withdrawn all criminal charges in R. v. Matheson, the case previously described as the Brandon X case, which involved a comic book reader who faced criminal charges in Canada relating to comic books on his computer. The defendant, Ryan Matheson, a 27-year-old comic book reader, amateur artist, and computer programmer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

After a search of his laptop in 2010, Matheson was wrongfully accused of possessing and importing child pornography because of constitutionally protected comic book images on that device. He was subjected to abusive treatment by police and a disruption in his life that included a two-year period during which he was unable to use computers or the internet outside of his job, severely limiting opportunities to advance his employment and education.

Matheson has agreed to plead to a non-criminal code regulatory offense under the Customs Act of Canada. As a result of the agreement, Matheson will not stand trial.

Although the outcome of this case is ultimately positive, comic book readers should be aware that there are still dangers for traveling with comics in Canada. Michael Edelson, who managed the defense said:

Aside from the very positive outcome to this story, your members should be cautioned concerning the search and seizure regime here in Canada exercised by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Moreover, they should also be aware that although anime and manga is legal in many areas of the United States and Japan, etc., to possess and utilize, the Canadian authorities may take a different view if this material is found on any laptops or mobile devices when you enter the country.

Edelson’s firm has created a new advisory on traveling with comics and manga in Canada that is available here: CBLDF – Legal Memorandum – Canada Issues . The CBLDF’s previous advisory, which addresses the issues of traveling with comics through international borders is located here: CBLDF Advisory – Comic Book Art at Intl Borders

Please visit today to make a donation in support of paying off Ryan's legal defense and creating new tools to combat abuses like this from happening in the future. You can also support this effort by becoming a member of the CBLDF. Every contribution helps CBLDF get Ryan back on his feet, and furthers our efforts to protect the First Amendment rights of comics and manga.


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