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.

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Importing cultural property

Individuals and businesses are responsible for the cultural property they import into Canada. Objects that may be sold in a foreign shop, market or online may not always be legally imported into Canada. Information about the export of cultural property from foreign states is available from the following:

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
  • ensure that it has all the necessary documents, such as export permits.

Detaining cultural property

When cultural property is detained upon import, the Movable Cultural Property Program:

If a foreign state requests the return of the cultural property, the Program will ask the Attorney General of Canada to initiate an action for recovery. An action for recovery is the mechanism established by the Act to return cultural property to a foreign state.

Returning cultural property

View the list of the returns of cultural property to their country of origin.

Canada's international commitments

As a signatory to two international conventions, Canada is dedicated to the fight against illegal traffic in cultural property. These international conventions are:

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:

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