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The Globe and Mail

Human rights tribunal dismisses complaint about ‘nude’ Stephen Harper painting

Margaret Sutherland's "Emperor Haute Couture" (cropped here) is currently on display in an Ontario library.


A complaint filed over a painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the buff has been dismissed.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the complaint lodged against the Kingston Frontenac Public Library for displaying the unauthorized nude depiction of Mr. Harper.

Curtis Stewart of St. Albert, Alta., had made the application last May, arguing his rights were infringed when the library chose to display the risque painting as part of a local art show.

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The tribunal notified Mr. Stewart of its decision on June 19, and gave him a month to respond.

He did not and the complaint is now considered as abandoned.

The large oil on canvas painting drew controversy when it was unveiled last May.

Titled Emperor Haute Couture, it shows a smiling, unclothed Harper reclined on a chaise lounge with a dog by his feet and a woman in business attire offering him a Tim Hortons cup on a silver platter.

Margaret Sutherland, the Kingston, Ont.-based artist responsible for the piece, has said the painting is supposed to convey a message about her discontent over the government's decision to eliminate the long-form census and several prison farms.

"It was sort of a culmination of some general frustrations of the federal government's policies and what they were telling us," she told media at the time.

"The political message is to look for yourself and don't necessarily believe the party line."

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The painting's title is also supposed to be a satirical take on the The Emperor's New Clothes, a children's story by Hans Christian Anderson about a vain king who wears no clothes because he believes his new suit is invisible to those unfit to see it.

It has since been sold to an unnamed private buyer for $5,000.

Phone calls to Mr. Stewart and Ms. Sutherland were unreturned Saturday.

The tribunal released its final decision Sept. 19.

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