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Bodies exhibit to stop touring: lawyer

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/1/2011 (2411 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG — Activists opposed to the controversial Bodies ... The Exhibition have abandoned efforts to pressure the Selinger government to seize the plasticized cadavers and bury them.

Lawyers for the Vancouver-based Coalition to Investigate Persecution of the Falun Gong, Canada, were in court this morning where they said the financial difficulties of the touring exhibit owners, and their own limited funds, made it unnecessary to seize the cadavers.

Bodies: The Exhibition has drawn 100,000 visitors 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.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Bodies: The Exhibition has drawn 100,000 visitors 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.

"We agree to adjourn this motion," lawyer Norman Boudreau, who along with human rights lawyer David Matas represent the coalition, told the court. "We have also agreed not to pursue," the seizure of the cadavers.

The abrupt change in tactics followed a break in motions court this morning to allow for a huddle between Boudreau and Matas and the lawyers for the provincial government and the exhibit owners, Premier Exhibition Inc.

When the hearing resumed, Boudreau said his clients would only be proceeding with an application to have the court rule that the provincial government has the jurisdiction to seize the cadavers and bury them.

Boudreau explained that he'd learned that the touring exhibit would shut down after its Winnipeg run as a cost-saving move by Premier Exhibition, adding that addressed the coalition's principle concern the cadavers no longer be on display.

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

"Our client cannot afford a quarter-million dollars to have this decision," Boudreau told a small crush of reporters outside the Law Courts building following the hearing. "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 was pleased the controversial travelling exhibit is being pulled from 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."

Boudreau and Matas came to court this morning after Health Minister Theresa Oswald rejected a request from Matas and the Falon Gung coalition to seize the cadavers and bury the bodies here before the exhibit leaves Winnipeg.

The Bodies exhibit has been dogged with controversy because of allegations that the cadavers were the bodies of political prisoners and Falon Gung followers who had been imprisoned in China. Premier Exhibitions leased the cadavers from the Chinese government and has admitted that it cannot prove the cadavers had not been imprisoned or that the individuals or their families had given written consent for them to be put on display.

Matas's ground-breaking research on the Falun Gong, a persecuted religious group in China, has been recognized as proving that 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."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 1:55 PM CST: Corrects name of coalition.

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