Saturday, May 26, 2012

Canadian "Conservative" Senator supports publicly-funded museum exhibit including frank depictions of nudity

Canadian taxpayers' dollars at work, as reported by Peter Henderson of the Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 2012:

OTTAWA — A Conservative senator said Thursday she can’t see the problem with an Ottawa museum exhibit that’s sparked controversy for its frank depictions of nudity and sexuality.

“It’s what every teenager needs to see,” said Sen. Nancy Ruth. “I’m so very pleased that it’s here. This isn’t a pornographic show at all, it’s an educational show. It’s a show that every family should bring their kids to see.”

Ruth was one of several dozen members of the public visiting the Canada Science and Technology Museum Thursday morning to finally get a look at Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition, after a week in which a firestorm erupted over the show’s content, which some believe is inappropriate.

Talk radio lines were jammed with callers in support of and against the exhibit even before a spokesman from the office of Canadian Heritage Minster James Moore stepped into the fray Wednesday to call it “insulting to taxpayers.”

Emails purportedly from museum head Denise Amyot posted on the website Reddit, if real, tell the story of an administrator under considerable public pressure to shut down the exhibit.

In the emails, which could not be confirmed as legitimate at the time of publication, someone writing as Amyot said there was “a lot of pressure to close the exhibition” and that it “may be too late” for people who support the museum to speak up.

Amyot could not be reached for comment, but museum press spokesman Olivier Bouffard, who spent Thursday in and around the exhibitions, guiding reporters and interacting with the public, said the museum was monitoring the reactions of visitors very closely.

“We will govern ourselves according to visitors’ reactions,” he said.

He would not confirm if the emails were real.

Bouffard said the museum stopped tallying comments last week with about 100 phone calls and emails against the proposed exhibit and 60 who were in favour of the display.

“We’re not going to base our decisions on some sort of election,” said Bouffard. “We’re watching the visitors’ response; they can make up their own minds for themselves.”

So far, Bouffard said, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Yves St-Onge, who heads the museum’s public affairs division, said the museum has no plans in the near future to shut down the show.

The exhibit, intended to offer “a rare opportunity for adolescents to get reliable answers to their questions about sexuality,” according to the museum’s website, already has had successful runs in Regina and Montreal, and Ruth said she didn’t understand what the controversy was about.

“I have to admit, it does make me wonder whether, because the Minister of Heritage doesn’t have any children as of yet, whether this is an issue where he doesn’t know that kids — my grandchildren, my godchildren — ask these questions all the time,” she said.

St-Onge said the minister’s comments came as a surprise.

“The minister’s position was made clear yesterday,” he said. “It’s not something we expect to see. We never thought that this would create such a stir.”

Moore could not be reached for comment. But in a Twitter direct message to Emmett Macfarlane, a prominent political science professor, Moore said it was “ridiculous” to say the ministry would consider shutting down the exhibit.

“The museum operates at arm’s-length,” he wrote. “This is their decision, not mine. They asked my opinion. Programming is entirely up to them”

In a move to placate the public, the museum raised the age for accessing the event without adult accompaniment to 16 from 12.

In addition to the new entrance requirements, the museum last week removed an animated video of male and female masturbation after negative feedback from parents and teachers who were invited to vet the content of the exhibition.

Reactions on Thursday morning were mostly muted. Ruth, who called for tougher government action against pornography in the past, was just one of the early visitors who saw no problem with the exhibit.

But some did complain...
Although Senator Nancy Ruth sits as a Conservative, she was appointed to the Senate as a Progressive Conservative by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005 in a move to put more opposition members in the upper house of Parliament. In this case, the appointee was as liberal as the senators on the government side. As reported by Ben Thompson of on March 24, 2005:

(Ottawa) Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Nancy Ruth to the Senate on Thursday. She becomes the second out member of the Senate. The other is Liberal Laurier LaPierre.

She was among nine new Senators named to the Upper Chamber Thursday.

Senators in Canada are appointed by the Prime Minister in power and serve until they are 75. The Senate, known as 'the chamber of sober second thought' has little power but can send non monetary bills back to the Commons with suggested revisions.

Ruth, 63, will sit as a Progressive Conservative - the old party that joined with the Alliance to form the Conservatives.

She has been a longtime supporter of Egale, Canada's national LGBT civil rights organization and has won a series of prestigious awards, both on the national and international scene.

She was awarded the South African Women for Women Friendship Award in 2004; the Government of Ontario’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights in 1998; and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.

Ruth has also been instrumental in co-founding organizations that work for women’s social change in Canada like the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Toronto’s The Linden School, The Women’s Future Fund and the Charter of Rights Coalition.

In addition she has sat on the Board of Directors of the Economic Council of Canada, The Canadian Center for Arms Control, The Canada-USA Fulbright Foundation and the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, among others.

Ruth twice ran for the Ontario legislature from Toronto and lost.
Senator Ruth has expressed her support for abortion in typical lesbian foul-mouthed fashion, as reported by Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star, May 3, 2010:

OTTAWA – Aid experts alarmed by Canada’s new anti-abortion stand in foreign policy have received some raw political advice from a Conservative senator: “shut the f--- up” or it could get worse.

“We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until G-8 starts. Shut the f--- up on this issue,” Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told a group of international-development advocates who gathered on Parliament Hill on Monday to sound the alarm about Canada’s hard-right stand against abortion in foreign aid.

“If you push it, there will be more backlash,” said Ruth, who fears that outrage will push her boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to take further measures against abortion and family planning – abroad, or maybe even in Canada. “This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country.”

Last week, Harper’s government announced that it would no longer be supporting abortion as any part of its foreign-aid focus on maternal health, even though abortion is legal in Canada.

It was a surprise measure from a Conservative prime minister who has so far veered his government away from any overt social conservatism and may haunt Harper into a future election campaign.

Ruth’s remarks, intended more as friendly advice than a warning, were met with gasps of disbelief and even anger among the approximately 80 aid representatives who converged on Parliament Hill to condemn what they see as a gathering storm against women’s rights in Canadian aid policy.

Ruth explained that she attends Conservative caucus, understands the current political dynamics and is sympathetic to the cause of women upset by the anti-abortion announcement – “I just want them to be quiet for five weeks,” she told reporters. But few of the advocates appeared inclined to take her counsel.

“We have shut the f--- up. That’ s the issue here,” said Joanna Kerr, the newly named chief executive of Action Aid International, based in South Africa.

“There’s a real chill in Ottawa on speaking out,” said Betty Plewes, a development consultant and chairperson of Monday’s meeting, organized around the question of “where is Canada’s leadership in the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights?”

One international aid advocate, Lydia Alpizar Duran, from the Association of Women’s Rights in Development, vowed that Canadian women would have help from other countries if they want to start making noise here.

“I don’t remember any women’s rights ever gained by staying silent,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, Kerr laid out a variety of measures which she says point to a worrying pattern in Canada’s attention to women’s rights abroad.

Just days ago, for instance, a 34-year-old Canadian aid organization devoted to gender equality, Match International, was notified that its funding was being cut. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae slammed the Conservatives in the Commons on Monday for the Match cuts, asking: “Just what kind of a grudge does the government have for the women's organizations around this country that are working so hard for women?”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who was also on Parliament Hill on Monday to add her voice to the rising chorus against the anti-abortion stand in foreign policy and the cuts to Match, said: “These are very dark days for women or for any Canadian citizen who looks at our place in the world and wonders: ‘what are we saying to the rest of the world about what we care about’?”

Ruth is convinced that the final communiqué of the G8 meeting in Canada in June will include a mention of this country’s support for family planning, but fears that ongoing furor over abortion could harden the Conservative government’s stand even more. And just as her Conservative colleagues have warned repeatedly, she said that Canada does not need a reopened abortion debate.

“I hope I’m not proven wrong but I have every confidence that it (the communiqué) will include family planning,” Ruth said. “Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t make it into an election issue.”

Harper’s announced ban on abortion in foreign-aid programs is an echo of a similar ban that former president George W. Bush also enacted during his eight years in office.

But Harper and his Conservatives say they are simply following the lead of the House of Commons, where a Liberal vote to support “the full range” of family-planning options in foreign aid was defeated in March.

The Liberals’ status-of-women critic, Anita Neville, was in the room as well when Ruth made her comments on Monday and spoke out against any further “chill” among people inclined to be critical of Harper’s decision. Neville says there’s enough of that in Ottawa already.

“I think women have been told too often to be quiet, be good and then you'll get what you want. I think that she was saying don't push the issue or you'll get the Prime Minister's back up even further and you won't get what you want,” Neville told reporters later.

“There was a bit of a shock in the room. I don't know that there was anybody in the room that agreed with her. I think people appreciated her sentiments were well intended but not well received.”
And what is Senator Nancy Ruth's occupational background?

I'm a United Church Minister by training! (link inserted by blogger)

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