Ministerial Question Period: Indigenous Art

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Welcome, minister. The illegal reproduction of Indigenous art has been a serious, ongoing issue for many years. As Kwaguilth carver Richard Hunt has stated:

. . . fakes are being mass produced, undercutting genuine Indigenous artists and making it harder for young First Nations carvers to make a living . . . .

Minister, issues like this, as well as artist resale rights, must be addressed. There are now no import restrictions to be enforced by the Canada Border Services Agency regarding fakes, and no specific provisions, as in the United States, that criminalize the copying of Indigenous art.

How is the Government of Canada addressing this issue? Indigenous artists need the government’s help in protecting their cultural heritage.

Hon. Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations: Certainly, senator, it’s immensely frustrating to see these original pieces of art being reproduced, and correspondingly undervalued. Currently there is not a ton of initiatives that are being undertaken to address this, and it’s unfortunate. It’s not something that has been prevalent in the last few years, although it was occurring long before a couple of years ago. Particularly with the increased interest in Indigenous culture, there is a market that is being created. You only have to go to a downtown Montreal tourist shop to see a lot of fakes.

It’s work that we have to engage with the provinces on for jurisdictional reasons. Creating a Criminal Code provision would probably be fraught with a number of problems, and, obviously, there are undoubtedly copyright or passing-off laws that could be, with difficulty, applied. It isn’t something where there is a comprehensive approach across governments to address in a comprehensive fashion.

I appreciate you highlighting that, and it’s something that, perhaps, can be tackled in the coming years with proper community consultation.

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