Import of Cultural Property
As outlined in the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, it may be illegal to bring cultural property into Canada, such as antiques or fossils, whose sale or export is banned or controlled by the country of origin.
Importing Cultural Property
Individuals and businesses are responsible for the cultural property they import into Canada. It may not be legal to bring cultural property into Canada that is for sale in a shop, market, or online. Information about the export of cultural property from foreign states is available from:
- foreign embassies and consulates in Canada;
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada; and
- Canadian embassies and consulates abroad.
Avoiding Import Delays
Cultural property imported into Canada may be detained by the Canada Border Services Agency if it does not have proper paperwork. To prevent import delays:
- ensure that the cultural property has been legally exported from the foreign state, and
- that it has all the necessary documents, such as export permits.
Detaining Cultural PropertyWhen cultural property is detained upon import, the Movable Cultural Property Program:
- verifies if the cultural property originates from a state that is a co-signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention;
- asks an independent expert to determine if the cultural property is authentic, and if it originates from the state indicated in accompanying documentation;
- verifies if the cultural property is protected by the foreign state; and
- confirms if the foreign state requests its return.
Canada’s International Commitments
As a signatory to two international conventions, Canada is dedicated to the fight against illicit traffic in cultural property.
- 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
- Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
The import of some cultural property may also be restricted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Penalties for Illegal Import of Cultural Property
It is a criminal offence to import cultural property into Canada that has been illegally exported from a foreign state. Penalties include fines, imprisonment, or both.
Canadian authorities may impose penalties on individuals who:
- import cultural property that has been illegally exported from a fellow signatory state to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. The property may also be confiscated and returned to the country of origin;
- export cultural property from occupied territories that are fellow signatories to the Second Protocol of the Hague Convention, even if the cultural property is not imported into Canada.