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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bodies exhibit to stop touring: Lawyers

Bodies: The Exhibition has drawn 100,000 visitors in Winnipeg alone since it opened four months ago. The displays of preserved and dissected cadavers in lifelike poses has also drawn significant criticism from those who say there's no proof the bodies aren't those of Chinese political prisoners or members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is persecuted in China.

WINNIPEG Free Press - An attempt to force Manitoba to seize and bury the cadavers in the controversial Bodies: The Exhibition show was abandoned Thursday after the protesters learned the owner of the exhibit will stop the tour due to money problems.

The Bodies exhibit has been dogged with controversy because of allegations that the corpses were the bodies of political prisoners and Falun Gong followers who had been imprisoned in China.

Lawyer Norman Boudreau, who represents the Vancouver-based Coalition of the Persecution of the Falun Gong, told a judge Thursday that it was no longer necessary to have the province seize the cadavers as the owner, Premier Exhibitions Inc., will no longer be taking the exhibit on tour when the Winnipeg show ends next week.

"We agree to adjourn this motion," he said.

Boudreau said his clients would only proceed with an application to have the court rule that the provincial government has the jurisdiction to seize the cadavers and bury them.

He explained that he'd learned the touring exhibit would shut down after its Winnipeg run as a cost-saving move by Premier Exhibition.

Boudreau also said a potential $250,000 bill the coalition faced if Premier Exhibition had to place the cadavers in storage during a prolonged hearing made continuing that fight untenable for the cash-strapped group.

"Our client cannot afford $250,000 to have this decision," Boudreau said. "The Bodies exhibit will no longer be toured so, in effect, we have made our point, we have won our application in that regard."

Maria Cheung, a social work professor at the University of Manitoba who has been protesting the Bodies exhibit throughout its run, said she is pleased the controversial show is not going elsewhere.

"This show is basically violating human rights," Cheung said. "This is good for the company not to do this type of thing anymore. It is unethical.

"Businesses need to conduct their businesses ethically. This is a good decision."

A spokesperson for Premier Exhibition could not be reached for comment.

Boudreau and Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas took their issue to court after Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald rejected a request from Matas and the Falun Gong coalition to seize the cadavers and bury the bodies before the exhibit leaves Winnipeg next week.

Premier Exhibitions officials said they leased the cadavers from the Chinese government.

The bodies, which were "unclaimed" in China, are displayed without the consent of the deceased.

Matas' groundbreaking research on the Falun Gong, a persecuted religious group in China, provides evidence the Chinese government forcibly removes organs from imprisoned Falun Gong members for use in transplant procedures there and around the world.

No date has been set for the court hearing on the jurisdiction issue, but Boudreau said it's important to press the government on that point.

"If a similar situation in the future again occurs, we will be able to rely on that decision," Boudreau said. "Hopefully the government will change the law and require, like in New York, that exhibitors have to prove they have consent from the individuals who passed away or from their estates."

Bodies: The Exhibition is a spinoff of the popular Body Worlds show, developed in Germany.

Windsor Star wrote - What other cities did:

New York: Following an ABC News 20/20 investigation, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo succeeded in securing a disclaimer on the exhibit saying organizers could not verify the bodies aren't those of Chinese prisoners. Any future exhibits must document the origins of each body, the cause of death and the deceased's consent.

Hawaii: The island state has banned all displays of cadavers for profit.

Seattle: Last summer, Seattle city council effectively banned all Bodies-type exhibits that could not produce proof of informed consent from the dead, or from the dead's next of kin.

Pittsburgh: An 11-year employee of the Carnegie Science Center quit to protest the exhibit in 2007 and state politicians considered cutting funding to the museum.

Germany, Russia, France, Venezuela...More on Bodies - Not Blog

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