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.
Now...as 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.