Barbara Kay: Ottawa sexhibition is an issue of waste, not prudery
National Post - Sunday May 20th, 2012
Sometimes a cabinet minister can’t win, when it comes to public opinion. Such would appear to be the case this week for Heritage Minister James Moore, under whose aegis Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition is running for the next six months at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.
The show had already toured Montreal and Regina without controversy, but it was third time unlucky when it arrived in Ottawa. The furor began on the day the exhibit opened, May 17, and controversy over its (now modified) exhibits continues. One of the more repulsive components – since removed in response to massive protest – was a video of a boy and a girl masturbating.
As soon as he became aware of the exhibit’s actual content, Mr. Moore let museum president Denise Amyot know he was offended. The purpose of the museum “is to foster scientific and technological literacy throughout Canada,” Moore’s office said in a statement. “It is clear this exhibit does not fit within that mandate. This content cannot be defended, and is insulting to taxpayers. We have expressed our strong concerns to the President of the Museum, and we encourage Canadians who are concerned to do the same.”
Ordinary Canadians applauded him, but more sophisticated minds recoiled from his alleged prudery. Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth protested that the exhibit was justified for its educational value. “It’s a show that every family should bring their kids to see.”
But Mr. Moore was right to denounce the show, because it is a waste of taxpayer money. The museum’s mandate is education around “science and technology.” Showing kids naked bodies; different kinds of condoms; exposure to 12 different sexual orientations (none of them heterosexual); advice on what to do with an unplanned pregnancy (abortion, no other option); praising the joys of promiscuity: Are any of these motifs remotely related to science or technology? No.
Which doesn’t mean Mr. Moore should get off scot-free. A cabinet minister is not obliged to personally oversee every project under his jurisdiction, but he should certainly be up to speed on the themes and the general features of what those projects are. This exhibition should have come to his attention in the planning stages. A cursory review of the material in it would have been sufficient to show Mr. Moore that it was not appropriate for the museum and that it didn’t deserve funding. It is a cautionary experience, and one we hope all cabinet ministers will take a lesson from.