Skeena-Bulkley Valley Conservative candidate under fire for human skull gift

Twitter photo The Facebook post from Oliver James Brown after receiving the human skull.

A birthday gift from Conservative federal MP candidate Claire Rattée to her boyfriend has raised a number of questions from those in her riding.

A Facebook post from Feb. 6 from Oliver James Brown states Rattée, the candidate for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, “is thee best girlfriend ever! My birthday gift came today my first real human skull and its from the 1700’s! So happy what an amazing gift babe thank you so much!

The issue is a sensitive one in Indigenous communities due to centuries of mistreatment of human remains. Many remains are still in museums or private collections around the world, having failed to go under the repatriation process. The population of Skeena-Bulkley Valley is around one-third Indigenous, the highest percentage of all 42 federal ridings in the province.

But Rattée says that this is not the case regarding this particular skull, which she bought from a speciality store in Toronto.

“It’s from the 1700s, it’s a European skull, and it belonged to a medical professional that retired,” said Rattée, referencing documentation she says she received with the purchase. “It’s pretty common back then that people would leave their bodies to science,” she added, which she believes is how the skull came into the original owner’s possession.

Rattée, who along with her boyfriend are tattoo artists with DivineInk in Kitimat, said the skull will be used for artistic purposes, such as a reference for tattoo works.

Rattée added that she understands why there might be some concern, but says the skull is not Indigenous, and that she took the appropriate steps in buying it.

“This is a purchase that I spent about six months researching to make sure that the seller that I bought it from makes every effort to repatriate human remains that they find,” said Rattée.

The Conservative party saw no problem with the gift.

“We stand behind Claire 100 per cent,” said Cory Hann, director of communications for the party. “She bought it from a reputable online vendor. The vendor followed all necessary criteria in the process. Claire followed all necessary criteria in the process.”

Smithers mayor and NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach declined to comment.

Possession of human remains is a hotly debated topic, whether they are Indigenous or not. Opinions range from defining them as art, to believing it is immoral for someone to possess such items, especially in a private collection.

– with files from Thom Barker

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