NDP MP Megan Leslie is apologizing to Czech women over a Halifax radio station's mail-order bride contest, but a spokesman for the station says he’s disappointed in her criticism of the giveaway.
J.C. Douglas, program director for Halifax’s Q104 radio station, says there's no sexual connection to the station's "Male is in the Czech" contest, where men are promised a set of dates with women in the Czech Republic.
"There's obviously no sexual connection with the dating. If a date is not successful, it won't go any further. If a date is successful, it could lead to matrimony," Douglas said.
The station has gotten about 50 applications for what they call a "giveaway" and will choose two finalists to be interviewed on air Monday.
The winner gets a flight to Prague and four dates to be used with up to four women.
The contest closes March 8, International Women’s Day.
Leslie, who represents a Halifax riding, calls the contest outrageous and apologized in Parliament for the station giving away women as prizes.
In a statement in the House of Commons Wednesday, Leslie said the contest is promoting an environment in which women are offered up as trophies.
"As a woman, I am furious. As a Canadian, I want to apologize to all Czech women and to the 50,000 women of Czech descent living in Canada. Incredible women like: Chaviva Hosek, Hana Gartner, and Halifax's own Lucy Decoutere," Leslie said.
"If the bride gets here, Lucy and I would be happy to show her around and we will make sure that she knows something else Canadian women have won in the last 100 years: the right to a divorce."
Mail-order bride not about buying
Douglas said he knows Leslie and was disappointed in her statement.
"I was disappointed that she was quite so theatrical [Wednesday] afternoon on the floor of the House of Commons," he said.
Douglas said any criticism about the contest using the term "mail-order bride" is unfounded, but seemed confused when told the implication is that a man chooses a woman out of a catalogue.
"The older implication might imply that, but we've made it so clear right from the beginning that there's nothing of that nature," he said.
"There’s nothing about buying, whatsoever."
"They [the Czech dating service]
use the term mail-order bride on the site … people recognize it. Potential clients recognize mail-order bride, may search for it. But they really don't use it much."
Douglas said listeners think the contest title, "Male is in the Czech," is "funny and cute."
"Some have seen it, the other side of that double entendre being a sexual thing, but that's only if you want to read into it," Douglas said.
The contest's rules make it clear there's no promise of sex. Douglas said the morning show hosts, three men, have also made it clear there’s no promise of marital bliss.
"Q104 is, in no way or manner, awarding the winner of this contest with sexual services or favours or participating in any type of prostitution or forced non-consensual arrangement," the rules say.
The radio station looked into concerns about human trafficking and sexual exploitation and would have abandoned the contest if they found any connection to international dating services, he said.
Protest outside Q104
A few dozen people gathered outside the radio station to protest the contest Thursday, as employees looked on from inside.
"International Women's Day is a day we really want to highlight the inequalities and oppression of women, and it's very offensive with such a sexist contest, said Laurie Ehler, who attended Thursday's protest.
"Our issue is the mail-order bride. It has a lot of history and lots of international issues around human trafficking."
Derrick Dixon organized an online petition that gathered more than 700 signatures.
"I can't really believe in today's day and age that a radio station thinks that it's OK to commodify women in this way by presenting them as a prize to be won in a contest," Dixon said.
Dixon said the station should issue an apology, pull the contest and donate the money that would have been spent to send the men to the Czech Republic to a local women's charity.
One of the aims of the protest, he said, was to target advertisers with hopes of ads being pulled.
The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission confirmed on Thursday it had pulled an advertisement.
"The NSLC has no association with this contest. However, we were advertising on Q104 our Air Miles program. This contest does not align with our corporate values. As a result, the NSLC has ended our advertising campaign four days earlier than planned," Rick Perkins, vice-president of business development and communications, said in an email.
The station belongs to Newcap Radio, which also runs Hot 89.9 in Ottawa. Hot 89.9 recently offered contestants a chance to "win a baby," via in-vitro treatments.