Friday, January 7, 2011

Bodies: Seize Cadavers, No Mummy Show?

Dr. Heather Gill-Frerking looks over a family of Hungarian mummies from the 19th century while preparing to open the new "Mummies of the World" exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles in June 2010.

David Matas is a noted human rights activist. He is perfectly justified in questioning the provenance of bodies in the Bodies exhibition at the MTS Exhibition Centre.

However, much like how the province overreached over the Criminal Property Forfeitures Act (by the way, it was nice to see the Free Press question the constitutional aspects of it as well yesterday), this is a reach of the most extreme kind. The Anatomy Act of 1987 is being used in a way that achieves Matas's goal by other means.

From the Free Press, the important details of the Anatomy Act are:

"No person shall take or send, or employ, authorize, cause, or permit, any other person to take or send, the body of a dead person obtained by him under this act, or any part thereof, out of the province for anatomical or other scientific instruction or requirements, unless authorized in writing to do so by the minister.

"Upon receipt of a notice under subsection (1), the authority responsible for burial of unclaimed bodies of deceased persons shall take delivery of, and arrange for the proper burial of the body."

David Matas wants to use the act to seize the Bodies exhibit lock, stock and barrel and bury it because of this act. The real intention of this is to embarrass China about the possible treatment of prisoners, especially political prisoners, who may or may not be part of this exhibit.

No doubt if Matas succeeds, the world's media will descend on Winnipeg as this will be the most political slap to China that we have ever seen in Canada. I expect that a monster size funeral would take place to further put the focus on political prisoners.

The Manitoba government should not should not let the Anatomy Act be used to achieve an objective by other means. If the government truly had a problem with the exhibition they should never had let it enter the province. Likewise, once it was here, they were within their rights to insist on a disclaimer. What they shouldn't be able to do is to seize an exhibit that would never have come if the province understood the implications of their own act. for the act, it is obvious the cat is out of the bag how it can be used in the future. Amend it to allow for travelling exhibition shows or we will never get the Body World exhibition where the provenance of the bodies is well recorded. Nor will be get to see the Mummies exhibition which opened in Los Angeles in June.

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One Man Committee said...

As much as I have reservations about the whole "Bodies" concept given the provenance of the bodies in question, I would suggest that the bodies are not being taken out of the province "for anatomical or other scientific instruction or requirements".

That's because "Bodies" is a travelling entertainment roadshow that's really no different than Cirque du Soleil or the Harlem Globetrotters. Sure, it gets dressed up as "edu-tainment", but at the end of the day it's still about a business that entertains people for profit. So it seems like a stretch to say that the province could intervene even if it decided that it wanted to.

Anonymous said...

David Matas is a twit.

He is counting on the public not to read the anatomy act.

The Act isn't intended to cover this. While it doesn't specifically say that it doesn’t apply to bodies brought into Manitoba, it’s pretty clear that if you read it, the act applies to bodies of people that have died while in Manitoba. He’s getting into US style legal interpretation here ( ‘But you honor, there was nothing in the owner’s manual of the lawnmower that says I shouldn’t cut my spouse’s hair with it’).

Any ruling in favour of this would be setting a bad precedent not only for this, but also all laws in Canada, if this act is found to apply, essentially we are applying a Manitoba law to an action in another country.

Imagine if other countries with repressive laws applied this same logic? If you’re a married individual who travels to a Middle East country with repressive laws, you’ll be most likely put to death, because at some point it’s likely you had sex when you weren’t married. But hey, if we can apply this logic here, why can’t they?

This is nothing but a sad attempt by Matas to get his 15 min of fame extended.

DriveGoddess said...

I wonder if David would defend my right to have my corpse chopped up and fed to carrion eaters as is done in Tibet. Oh right, why should I care? I am already dead.

John Dobbin said...


Teresa Oswald has said Anatomy Act does not apply to the exhibit but that she is willing to listen to people about the future of allowing such exhibitions in the future.

In other words, the exhibitions of Body World and the Mummies tour could end up in trouble in the province.

The government needs to clear up the law not put future exhibitions under a legal cloud.