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How to avoid importing illegal forest products

Know the rules, avoid the penalties

Illegal logging and the illegal timber trade have become major international problems. Their environmental, social and economic costs are felt in Canada and around the world.

Illegal forest products are those made from timber that has been harvested, transported, bought or sold in violation of national laws.

Illegal logging causes deforestation, landslides, degraded water supplies, loss of biodiversity and reductions in forest cover that increase global carbon emissions and lead to climate change. This creates social conflict with indigenous and local populations and leads to violence, crime and human rights abuses.

What are the risks to Canadian importers if they buy illegally harvested forest products – knowingly or unknowingly?

Canadian importers found bringing illegal forest products into the country may incur substantial fines, up to millions of dollars in the most serious cases. They also face serious damage to their reputation and to their brand.

How can Canadian importers reduce the risk of unknowingly buying illegally harvested forest products?

First, importers are strongly encouraged to learn their obligations under Canadian law. Importation of forest products is governed by three main pieces of legislation:

Second, importers should ask the following questions before attempting to bring products into Canada, such as:

Do our suppliers:

  • Use third-party certification of sustainability?
  • Understand Canadian rules and regulations related to forest products?
  • Use formal supply chain management tracking?
  • Trace their supply chains all the way back to the forest?
  • Provide the scientific names of the species being supplied?
  • Apply ethical standards to the products’ procurement?
  • Know the degree of illegal activity in the forest or region that their products come from?
  • Have proper and credible documentation?
  • Understand the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora?

Does my business:

  • Understand the foreign laws of countries from which we import?
  • Conduct independent research on our suppliers?
  • Establish long-term relationships instead of buying on spot markets?
  • Ask questions of our suppliers about the origin and genus/species contained in their products and document their answers?
  • Know the geographic distribution of the species we are importing?
  • Visit suppliers and forest sites?

For more information

To learn more, please consult the factsheet “Importing illegal forest products: Know the rules, avoid the penalties.”

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