Department of Canadian Heritage

Department of Canadian Heritage

January 12, 2017 09:00 ET

Canada Returns Heritage Objects to the People's Republic of China

This is the third return of cultural property to China by the Government of Canada

BEIJING, CHINA--(Marketwired - Jan. 12, 2017) - Department of Canadian Heritage

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, met with Liu Yuzhu, Director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, and confirmed the return of illegally exported cultural property to China. An official ceremony will be held in Ottawa on January 18.

The significant heritage objects being returned are a 220-million year old Saurichthys fish fossil from China's Guizhou province, an early Ichthyosaur fossil, likely dating to the early Triassic period (252-247 million years ago) originating from China, and a pair of carved wooden roof supports from southwestern China. These objects were illegally exported from China and were detained in Canada by the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP. China claimed these objects as their cultural property and requested their return.

This return demonstrates Canada's ongoing commitment to prevent the illicit traffic of cultural property and to ensure its return to its country of origin. It is an example of the successful cooperation of government departments and agencies working together to enforce the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.


"Canada recognizes that the illicit import and export of cultural property impoverishes the heritage of a country, and we will continue our efforts to prevent this activity. We are very pleased to return these significant heritage objects to the Government of the People's Republic of China. As evidenced by the Canada-China Program of Cultural Cooperation, which was renewed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last fall, Canada and China share a commitment to protect our respective heritage, and to collaborate in that protection."

- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Quick Facts

  • Canada and China are signatories to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Under the Convention, participating states agree to assist each other in the recovery of illegally exported and stolen cultural property.
  • In Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for Canada's obligations under the 1970 Convention through its implementing legislation, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Under the Act, it is illegal to import into Canada any cultural property illegally exported from another State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention after the time when the Convention took effect in both Canada and that state.
  • Since 1997, Canada has returned illegally exported cultural property to 12 different states on 21 occasions.

Associated Links

Returns of cultural property

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Contact Information

  • For more information (media only):
    Pierre-Olivier Herbert
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

    Media Relations
    Canadian Heritage