Cultural Property, Public Policy, and the Courts - A Recent Experience

By: Sharilyn Ingram  

Since 1977 the Cultural Property Export and Import Act [CPEIA] has played a significant role in preserving Canada’s artistic, historic, and scientific heritage and making it accessible to the public. A response to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the legislation’s original focus on controlling the export and import of cultural property has been superseded in importance by the incentives to donate cultural property to designated public institutions. In essence, the growth of public collections in Canada has been fostered by the public policy embodied in the CPEIA. In 2017 an unprecedented application for judicial review of a decision by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board [CCPERB], the independent tribunal established by the CPEIA to certify cultural property and make ultimate determinations on refused export permits, led to a Federal Court decision which overturned the CCPERB decision and redefined “national importance” more narrowly as a criterion for certification and export control. The Attorney-General of Canada appealed the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeal, and a group of major museums filed for status as interveners in the hearing. In 2019 the Federal Court of Appeal judgment upheld the appeal, reinstating the original CCPERB decision. Media attention has raised public discussion of private property rights, the art market, museums’ acquisitions, tax credits, collections’ relevance, and “national importance” .This paper untangles the public policy strands and proposes an approach to addressing them.

Art Museums, Arts Policy, Art Law, Arts Philanthropy
The Arts in Social, Political, and Community Life
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Sharilyn Ingram

Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board

Sharilyn J. Ingram came to Brock University in 2004 as Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, a position she held until June 2009. She arrived in academia from a career in cultural management, including such positions as President and CEO of Royal Botanical Gardens (Canada), Deputy Director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Executive Director of Saskatchewan Western Development Museums, and Director of Policy, Planning and Management Services at the National Museums of Canada. She has presented her work at museological, horticultural and arts management conferences in North America, Australia, Ireland, and the UK. Until 2017 she taught arts management and cultural policy for Brock University's Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, and her research interests include arts leadership, the intersections of gardens and art, museums and social justice, and arts policy. She holds an M.A. in History from the University of Alberta and has been named a Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association, its highest professional honour. In 2016 she was appointed Chair of the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, an Order-in-Council appointment by the Government of Canada.