U.S. actors 'smuggled' into Canada for ad shoot may go free

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MONTREAL--The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television & Radio Artists (ACTRA) is concerned that Citizenship & Immigration Canada may not lay charges against companies that shot one or more commercials in Pointe-Claire, Que., using U.S. talent allegedly 'smuggled' into Canada.

ACTRA has been supportive of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild in their five month-long strike against the ad industry. ACTRA marched with U.S. picketers on Sept. 21 in front of the General Motors plant in Windsor, Ont. GM has been one of the major producers of non-union commercials in both the U.S. and Canada since about 135,000 U.S. actors went on strike.

In this latest instance, Human Resources Development Canada refused to grant foreign work permits to U.S. actors for a commercial being shot in Canada for General Electric's e-commerce division. The reason -- that qualified Canadian talent was available to perform the roles that had, at most, four speaking words. The U.S. actors apparently were smuggled into Canada but had left the set by the time Immigration Canada inspectors -- notified by ACTRA representatives on site to demonstrate against the shooting -- arrived.

Inspectors are believed to have found photos and U.S. addresses of the performers in question, however, and their names are to be entered in the immigration databank.

Under the Immigration Act, however, if the actors weren't `caught' in person, they cannot be charged. Further, since only individuals can be charged, the companies involved: GE, New York agency BBDO Worldwide, and Toronto production house Industry Films, appear to be home free.

Copyright September 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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