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Minister defends Tourism BC aid to swimsuit issue

Tourism, culture and the arts minister Kevin Krueger dismissed criticism that Tourism B.C. helped objectify women when it aided producers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue with a photo shoot in Whistler.

In a Feb. 27 Ottawa Citizen column, author and coach Laura Robinson argued that government tourism agencies had contributed to female athletes being seen as sexual objects.

“There is extraordinary pressure on girls and young women, more than ever, to look like sluts,” she wrote. “All girls and women should be able to be in public spaces without being sexually harassed, and that is one of many reasons why the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the municipality of Whistler should not have orchestrated and funded the bid to have Sports Illustrated shoot its swimsuit issue with members of the American snowboarding and Alpine ski teams at Whistler.”

Even if young skiers want to express the strength of women athletes by posing nearly naked in soft porn, taxpayers shouldn't have to fund the project, Robinson said in the piece titled, “From podium to pinup, on our dime.”

Asked whether B.C. taxpayers contributed to objectifying women, Krueger said, “I don't think a whole lot of people would share that view and I don't.”

He confirmed that Tourism B.C. helped scout locations in Whistler for photo shoots of four female Olympic athletes, including skier Lindsey Vonn, and introduced the people working on the shoot to the property owners. “That's what they do for everybody whose going to do a tourism related piece on B.C.,” he said.

The athletes who posed made their own decisions whether to appear in the magazine, he said. “There are 69 million buyers of that magazine so you can hardly fault anybody for wanting to have her or his picture in there,” said Krueger. “I think its people's own business if they want to model and I think that it's a legitimate publication, so to each his own.”

He said he's not, by the way, a reader of the issue himself. “I have actually never looked at Sports Illustrated, including that edition,” he said. “I have way too much reading material.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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