Canada's heritage icons leaking away

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Canada's cultural treasures -- including religious objects from Quebec and aboriginal artifacts -- are "racing out of the country" because government controls are ineffective and Canada's border agency isn't interested in enforcing them, Canadian Heritage has been told.

"It should be pointed out that the recent creation of the (Canada Border Services Agency) as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has resulted in a significant reduction in the priority given to issues not related to health, safety and security," reads an internal evaluation by Canadian Heritage, obtained by the Ottawa Citizen under the Access to Information Act.

"The CBSA has explicitly indicated that ... export controls are outdated and it wishes to get out of the business."

Key informants from government and private cultural institutions, who were interviewed for the evaluation and warned of the lost treasures, indicate significant numbers of cultural exports bypass controls, and that some institutions ignore temporary permits for travelling exhibitions completely.

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