Canada: When The Canada Border Service Agency Seizes Your Cash, What Can You Do To Get Your Cash Back?

Last Updated: January 22 2016
Article by Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

The Canada Border Services Agency ("CBSA") may seize your cash if you are carrying financial instruments over $Canadian 10,000 and fail to declare the financial instruments when you enter Canada or leave Canada. When arriving in Canada by air, all passengers complete the E311 form – Declaration Card. One of the questions on the form asks" I/We are bringing into Canada Currency and/or financial instruments totaling $CAD 10,000 or more". When arriving by land, the CBSA officer at the primary booth is required to ask whether the travelers are bringing into Canada currency or financial instruments in excess of $Canadian 10,000. When travelers are leaving Canada by air or by land, they must voluntarily report to the CBSA and inform them if they are traveling with more than $Canadian 10,000.

Section 12(1) of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act provides that "Every person or entity referred to in subsection (3) shall report to an officer, in accordance with the regulations, the importation or exportation of currency or monetary instruments of a value equal to or greater than the prescribed amount." Section 12(3) of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act provides that

"Currency or monetary instruments shall be reported under subsection (1)

(a) in the case of currency or monetary instruments in the actual possession of a person arriving in or departing from Canada, or that form part of their baggage if they and their baggage are being carried on board the same conveyance, by that person or, in prescribed circumstances, by the person in charge of the conveyance;

(b) in the case of currency or monetary instruments imported into Canada by courier or as mail, by the exporter of the currency or monetary instruments or, on receiving notice under subsection 14(2), by the importer;

(c) in the case of currency or monetary instruments exported from Canada by courier or as mail, by the exporter of the currency or monetary instruments;

(d) in the case of currency or monetary instruments, other than those referred to in paragraph (a) or imported or exported as mail, that are on board a conveyance arriving in or departing from Canada, by the person in charge of the conveyance; and

(e) in any other case, by the person on whose behalf the currency or monetary instruments are imported or exported."

If an CBSA officer believes on reasonable grounds that subsection 12(1) has been contravened, the CBSA officer may seize as forfeit the currency or monetary instruments. This means they can take and hold as forfeit the money.

That being said, subsection 18(2) of theProceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act states that "the officer shall, on payment of a penalty in the prescribed amount, return the seized currency or monetary instruments to the individual from whom they were seized or to the lawful owner unless the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the currency or monetary instruments are proceeds of crime within the meaning of subsection 462.3(1) of the Criminal Code or funds for use in the financing of terrorist activities."

The penalties are set out in the Cross-border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations, SOR/2002-412. Section 18 limits the penalties as follows:

For the purposes of subsection18(2) of the Act, the prescribed amount of the penalty is

(a) $250, in the case of a person or entity who

  1. has not concealed the currency or monetary instruments,
  2. has made a full disclosure of the facts concerning the currency or monetary instruments on their discovery, and
  3. has no previous seizures under the Act;

(b) $2,500, in the case of a person or entity who

  1. has concealed the currency or monetary instruments, other than by means of using a false compartment in a conveyance, or who has made a false statement with respect to the currency or monetary instruments, or
  2. has a previous seizure under the Act, other than in respect of any type of concealment or for making false statements with respect to the currency or monetary instruments; and

(c) $5,000, in the case of a person or entity who

  1. has concealed the currency or monetary instruments by using a false compartment in a conveyance, or
  2. has a previous seizure under the Act for any type of concealment or for making a false statement with respect to the currency or monetary instruments."

If the CBSA does not believe that the money is proceeds of crime and this is a person's first offense, the penalty should be only $250. The CBSA should not impose a level 2 penalty ($2,500) if the person is a NEXUS card holder because the regulations do not allow for an upgrading of the penalty.

We have seen many situations where the CBSA has imposed the incorrect level of penalty. In these circumstances, the person may file a request for a review under section 25 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, which provides:

"A person from whom currency or monetary instruments were seized under section 18, or the lawful owner of the currency or monetary instruments, may, within 90 days after the date of the seizure, request a decision of the Minister as to whether subsection 12(1) was contravened, by giving notice to the Minister in writing or by any other means satisfactory to the Minister."

Pursuant to section 24.1 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, the Minister has the authority to cancel the seizure or reduce the penalty. Section 24.1 provides:

"The Minister, or any officer delegated by the President for the purposes of this section, may, within 90 days after a seizure made under subsection 18(1) or an assessment of a penalty referred to in subsection 18(2),

  1. cancel the seizure, or cancel or refund the penalty, if the Minister is satisfied that there was no contravention; or
  2. reduce the penalty or refund the excess amount of the penalty collected if there was a contravention but the Minister considers that there was an error with respect to the penalty assessed or collected, and that the penalty should be reduced."

It is important to exercise care in drafting a request for a review. The Recourse Directorate looks at many forms of appeal. Depending on what you admit to, you could find yourself in more trouble. How you set out the facts is important. What information you provide is important. Always be mindful that the offense provisions include jail time. Section 74.1 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act states that:

"Every person or entity that knowingly contravenes any of sections ... 612(1) and (4) ... or the regulations is guilty of an offence and liable

  1. on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both; or
  2. on conviction on indictment, to a fine of not more than $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, or to both.

We would be pleased to help you if you would like to challenge the CBSA's seizure in circumstances where the cash/financial instruments is not proceeds or crime of terrorist financing. Please call us at 416-307-4168.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.