The Federal Court issued a decision yesterday allowing the judicial review application in Heffel Gallery Limited. v. Canada (Attorney General). In the successful judicial review application, Heffel Gallery, a Canadian fine-art auction house, was represented by Conway lawyers, Thomas Conway, Owen Rees, and Julie Mouris.
The application concerned a decision by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board to delay the issue of an export permit for a French painting sold by Heffel to a U.K. buyer, on the basis that the painting was of “national importance”. The painting, Iris bleus, jardin du Petit Gennevilliers (1892), was painted by French painter Gustave Caillebotte, and had been in a private Canadian collection for 50 years.
The Federal Court held that the Review Board’s interpretation of “national importance” under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act was overly broad and unreasonable. The Court also found that “[t]here was no reasonable basis for the Board to have concluded that the Painting was of such a degree of national importance that its loss to Canada would significantly diminish the national heritage. The artist and subject matter were not Canadian and the Painting has no connection to the Canadian public or Canadian Impressionism.” Accordingly, the Court quashed the decision of the Review Board and remitted it for a new hearing.
This decision provides much-needed clarity on the scope of the “national importance” criterion under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, and has implications for auction houses and dealers of fine art who wish to export cultural objects that are controlled by the Act. Further coverage of the Federal Court decision can be found in the Lawyer’s Daily, the Globe & Mail and the National Post.