Canada: Supreme Court Justices Drop The Gloves Over Tariff Classification

Last Updated: September 13 2017
Article by Jamie M. Wilks

In wintertime ice hockey is the delight of everyone.

Opening words of the majority decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Igloo Vikski40

Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc.
2016 sec 38


In Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc.41 the Supreme Court of Canada had its first opportunity to consider the appropriate tariff classification of imported goods under the harmonized system schedule ("the HS schedule") to the Customs Tariff.42 Although it is a given that tax legislation is complex and difficult to interpret, the HS schedule is particularly opaque, perhaps because it reflects the input and wide-ranging interests of more than 180 members of the World Customs Organization (WCO). The Igloo Vikski case delves deeply into those complex interpretive rules of tariff classification and provides guidelines on how to apply them.

The issue in this appeal was whether the protective puck-catching and blocking equipment that a hockey goaltender wears on his or her hands (that is, goalie gloves) fell within the tariff classification of "gloves, mittens and mitts" "of any textile fabric" under tariff item 6216.00.00 of the HS schedule, as alleged by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), or "other articles of plastics and articles of other materials" under tariff item 3926.90.90 of the HS schedule, as alleged by Igloo Vikski.43 There was no dispute that the hockey gloves were made of both textile and plastics, and both types of material were important in the construction of the glove. At stake was whether Igloo Vikski could claim any refund for duties paid on the imported gloves.

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) found in favour of the CBSA and ruled that the hockey goalie gloves were "gloves, mittens and mitts" "of any textile fabric."44 On appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal found that the CITT misapplied the rules for interpreting the HS schedule and that the goalie gloves prima facie fell within both of the tariff classifications for textiles and plastics. Accordingly, the court sent the matter back to the CITT, instructing the tribunal to apply a tiebreaker rule to determine the correct classification of the articles.45 In the deciding playoff game before the Supreme Court of Canada, in an 8-1 decision, the court supported the CITT's finding that goalie gloves are properly classified as "gloves, mittens and mitts" "of any textile fabric."


In considering the Supreme Court's interpretation of the HS schedule, it is important to have a basic understanding of the structure of the HS schedule. As noted by the court,

[t]he Harmonized System uses an eight-digit classification system for tariff classifications, which is incorporated into the Schedule to the Customs Tariff. That system proceeds, within sections of the Schedule, from general to specific classifications via chapters, headings, subheadings and tariff items. For example, within Section I ("Live Animals; Animal Products") is found the eight-digit tariff item No. 0302 .12.40, applicable to fresh or chilled sockeye salmon. The first two digits of that tariff item (03) denote the item as falling within Chapter 3 ("Fish and Crustaceans, Molluscs and Other Aquatic Invertebrates"); the first four digits (03 .02) denote the heading ("Fish, fresh or chilled, excluding fish fillets ... "); the first six digits (0302.12) denote the subheading ("Pacific Salmon"); and the full eight-digit tariff item denotes the specific good ("Sockeye").

The Schedule to the Customs Tariff also contains "General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System." Section 10(1) of the Customs Tariff directs that "the classification of imported goods under the tariff item shall, unless otherwise provided, be determined in accordance with the General Rules."

The General Rules are comprised of six rules governing the classification of goods under the Harmonized System. According to the jurisprudence of the Federal Court of Appeal and the CITT, these rules are to be applied in a "cascading" fashion ....

In addition to the Harmonized System and the General Rules, the Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System published and amended from time to time by the World Customs Organization also inform the classification of imported goods. Specifically, s. 11 of the Customs Tariff provides that, in interpreting the headings and subheadings employed by the Harmonized System, "regard shall be had" to the &planatory Notes. While, therefore the &planatory Notes (unlike the Harmonized System and the General rules themselves) are not binding, they must be at least considered in determining the classifications of goods imported into Canada.46

The HS schedule also includes chapter notes and section notes that have the force of law and must be applied. Thus, in interpreting the HS schedule, an importer must (1) look to the description of the items in the schedule, as modified by any chapter notes or section notes; (2) apply the six "General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System" and the related "Canadian Rules";47 and (3) have regard to the WCO's explanatory notes.48

To read this article in full, please click here.


40 Paying tribute to the well-known opening of the judgment in Miller v. Jackson, (1977) EWCA Civ. 6, per Lord Denning MR: "In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone."

41 2016 sec 38.

42 Customs Tariff, SC 1997, c. 36, as amended.

43 As the Supreme Court put it, supra note 41, at paragraph 1, the question is whether the goaltender "blocks and catches the puck with a 'glove, mitten or mitt,' or with an 'article of plastics.'"

44 Igloo Vikski Inc. v. President of the Canada Border Services Agency, 2013 Cati.LII 4408 (CITT).

45 Igloo Vikski Inc. v. Canada (Border Services Agency), 2014 FCA 266.

46 Igloo Vikski (SCC), supra note 41, at paragraphs 5-8.

47 These rules are set out in a schedule to the Customs Tariff, supra note 42.

48 World Customs Organization, Explanatory Notes to the Ha1'monized Commodity Description and Coding System, 5th ed. (Brussels: WCO, 2012) (herein referred to as "the explanatory notes").

First published by the Canadian Tax Foundation in (2017) 65:1 Canadian Tax Journal.

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2017

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.

Jamie M. Wilks
In association with
Related Video
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.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


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.