Navigating Participating Government Agencies in Canada

Navigating Participating Government Agencies in Canada

Trade Talk Blog


s an importer, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is the primary government agency you need to be in compliance with and accountable to. However, depending on the type of goods you’re importing, there are other government agencies and departments that may be involved in your import transaction. Your goods may, in fact, be subject to requirements by one or more Participating Government Agencies (PGAs).

What is a Participating Government Agency (PGA)?

A PGA is a government department, agency, or organization that has authority over the goods you are importing. Also known as Other Government Departments (OGDs), PGAs are responsible for the administration and enforcement of laws and regulations that ensure the health and safety of Canadians and protect Canadian businesses from unfair competition.

As of 2019, there are nine government agencies and departments taking part in CBSA’s PGA program – a program that streamlines the regulation of imported goods by sharing commercial import data via the Single Window Initiative (SWI). The following is a list of the nine PGAs that may inspect and regulate your imported goods:

  1. Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of food and agricultural products, such as fruits and vegetables, certain dairy products, and processed foods. When importing food and agricultural products, you will need an import permit from the CFIA.
  1. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is responsible for coordinating environmental policies and programs, as well as preserving and enhancing Canada’s natural environment and renewable resources.
  1. Health Canada (HC) is responsible for ensuring the safety of consumer products to help Canadians maintain and improve their health.
  1. Transport Canada (TC) is responsible for transportation policies and programs. It promotes safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible transportation.
  1. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security, and the environment. It licences the import, export, and transportation of nuclear materials and other prescribed substances, equipment, technology, and dual-use items.
  1. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for safeguarding Canadian waters and managing Canada’s fisheries and oceans resources.
  1. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) manages diplomatic relations, promotes international trade, and provides consular support.
  1. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is committed to improving the quality of life of Canadians by ensuring the country’s abundant natural resources are developed sustainably, competitively, and inclusively.
  1. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) focuses on preventing disease and injuries, responding to public health threats, promoting good physical and mental health, and providing information to support informed decision making.

For a complete list of Canada’s OGDs, please refer to Other Government Departments and Agencies: Reference List for Importers.

What is the role of CBSA with PGAs?

The CBSA is responsible for administering and enforcing the Customs Act, which includes the restriction of importing certain goods. The CBSA also helps ensure prohibited and controlled goods are not imported illegally into Canada by administering and enforcing legislation and regulations on behalf of other government departments and agencies, such as PGAs.

The role of CBSA is to ensure that all PGA requirements are met before releasing your goods. When your imported goods arrive in Canada, they will be inspected by CBSA officers, who will then determine if they require clearance by a participating government agency. In most cases, the CBSA will refer your goods to a PGA and wait until the goods have been cleared by that PGA before releasing them into Canada.

What are an importer’s responsibilities towards PGAs?

As an importer, you must be aware of what goods may be subject to PGAs and ensure your goods meet the requirements of all PGAs that apply to them before they can be released by CBSA. Additionally, you are responsible for obtaining all licenses, certificates, permits, and other documents prior to importation.

In some cases, you may need to obtain documentation from a PGA before importing your goods. For example, if you wish to import food into Canada, you must ensure that the food meets Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulatory requirements and obtain a Safe Food for Canadians License (SFCL) — which can only be obtained directly from CFIA.

It is important to note that more than one PGA can apply to a single commodity, such as when importing a leather purse. In this case, the leather purse may be subject to requirements under ECCC as a wildlife product and Health Canada (HC) as a consumer product. Due to the complex nature of administering and adhering to PGAs, we recommend that you seek expert advice from a customs broker.

How does the PGA clearance process work?

If your imported goods are regulated by one or more PGAs, the import entry will not be accepted until all requirements have been met and documentation submitted. Furthermore, the clearance process may include physical inspections of the goods. CBSA will inform your customs broker about the additional required documentation and if your shipment will be referred to the appropriate PGA for inspection.

Not sure if your imported goods may be subject to requirements by participating government agencies? Contact one of our Trade Experts book a meeting with us today! We’re here to help simplify and streamline your import process.


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