About a years and a half ago, there was an extensive discussion on
MMD about an incident in which a Canadian tried to import into
Canada from the USA, an upright Duo-Art and ended up in a hassle
with Canada Customs because of its ivory covered keyboard. He
was allowed to bring the piano into Canada only after the keys
themselves were confiscated.
A few weeks ago, an American concert pianist, specializing in
ancient music on his own 1870 Pianoforte, entered into a contract
to perform a concert in Toronto. At the Niagara Falls border
crossing, he too ran into a similar hassle with Canada Customs. He
had no option but to rent a motel room in Niagara Falls, USA, park
his instrument there, and borrow a similar instrument on short
notice (24 hours) from a collector in Toronto who just happened to
have a similar one.
Fritz Gellerman correctly referenced the CITES International
Agreement of 1973 imposing a worldwide ban on trade in endangered
species or parts thereof. The CITES Agreement was signed by a
huge array of countries worldwide, including Canada and the USA.
Enforcement is the responsibility of the environment, fish, game,
wildlife folks of each of the hundreds of signatory countries.
In Canada, it's the Provincial Wildlife folks administering a
federal Environment Canada process. In the US, it's local
federal Fish & Wildlife Service agents administering their own
federal processes. The US F&WS web site contains all the
necessary permits and many information documents. Relative to
"ivory", there is an information document which states:
> Worked ivory can be imported [into the USA] for non-commercial
> purposes if accompanied by a CITES Pre-Convention Certificate
> issued by the Management Authority of the exporting country that
> shows the ivory was acquired before February 4, 1977.
Seems simple enough, except that the folks doing the administration
differ dramatically on requirements and processes in both
countries. I'm stunned by what seems to be insurmountable
As some here on MMD may have noticed, I recently posted a For Sale
notice for a number of instruments I have decided to part with in
some rational, manageable manner, rather than leave my heirs with a
giant problem. It is unlikely that I will find homes for these
instruments in Canada. The USA is my most likely source of
interested people. Thus far, 3 of the instruments have been
spoken for, all by U.S. citizens, all private individuals.
All of these instruments were originally manufactured in the USA,
and in theory, they would simply be returning to country of origin,
no value added, free of duty and taxes, regardless of age.
Enter CITES which is aimed at animals, skins, trophies, etc. The
authors never quite thought through what to do with commercial
products containing prohibited "parts thereof", manufactured long
before the 1973 agreement, such as pianos and bagpipes to name a
A US Customs agent has told me he will immediately confiscate a
piano containing an ivory keyboard, and the trailer and vehicle
pulling it, as "contraband", no differently than if the banned
material was drugs. In his mind, CITES is a hard prohibition.
A nearby US Fish & Wildlife Services agent has told me that yes, a
"Pre-Convention Certificate" will work, but an appointment had to
be made with him for a crossing at a designated commercial border
crossing point, for his personal inspection. He also stated
that the piano must also have:
1. an Affidavit swearing that the item is an antique.
2. a U.S. Commercial Import/Export License
3. a Designated Port Exception Permit from the USFWS.
Only one of these instruments, the 1899 reed organ, is a true
antique, being 101 years of age. All the others are not
officially antiques, for they are less than 100 years of age.
However, in theory based on past practice, custom and usage, age
has never been a factor before CITES.
The US F&WS web site makes no mention of these requirements, the
local agent wasn't quite sure who needed to acquire these
documents, where to get them, or for what fee.
My Canadian local Provincial Wildlife Permits officer has never
before faced my situation, referred me to her Federal Director in
Ottawa, who is on holidays for a month (just left), with no backup
on such an obscure issue.
My Canadian local federal Environment Canada representative is
uncertain what to do, he's never faced the situation before and
referred me to his Ottawa Director whose email address didn't work,
he phone number is an automated convoluted information voice menu,
to which no response emerges to my messages. The Canadian
federal web site is of little help.
Quite frankly I am totally mystified as to why such barriers are in
place for the simple return into the USA of anything manufactured
there prior to the CITES agreement. On the contrary, I would
have expected the USA to be delighted to encourage and facilitate
the return of its musical heritage.
My apologies for this long message, but it would appear that
anybody on the worldwide MMD special interested group could be
affected by this CITES Agreement and the
administrative/bureaucratic confusion surrounding it.
For my particular situation, does anybody know of a U.S. Senator
whose hot button is the preservation and protection of his nation's
musical heritage. I would like to appeal to this VIP in hopes of
provoking some clarification of the spirit and intent of the CITES
Agreement down at the grassroots level, and how it is interfering
with something about which considerable concern should emerge at
the highest levels.
Thoughts, advice of others would be appreciated.