Canada 'A replacement for strip clubs': Racy charity event raises ire in Saskatoon

18:20  05 december  2017
18:20  05 december  2017 Source:   cbc.ca

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The Saskatoon Progress Club hosted this charity fundraiser called Boys Lunch Out at TCU Place Friday. "It was just about getting guys drunk. It's just a replacement for strip clubs ." The club drew fire for the same event in 2015 over a racy online promotional image.

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Strip event in Saskatoon© Jason Warick/CBC Strip event in Saskatoon

Accusations of sexism and hypocrisy are being levelled at a Saskatoon men's club over its annual charity fundraiser, which featured women in G-strings and bras gyrating on raised walkways.

A related party, promising "one-on-one" time with models in a secret location for donors to the Saskatoon downtown chapter of the Canadian Progress Club is also raising eyebrows.

The club hosted its 36th annual Boys Lunch Out in a banquet room at the TCU Place event venue late on Friday morning and afternoon. A CBC News reporter was on the scene for about five minutes, and shot a short video, before being ejected.

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'It's definitely not in line with our values.' Carm Michalenko , Saskatoon Community Foundation

In the video, a dozen women are seen clad in underwear gyrating to the sound of pop and rock music.

Men watched the women, or their images on large video screens, while other women served drinks. A male MC made sexual jokes — with punch lines such as "That's what she said" — while his female counterpart implored the men to order more drinks.

All attendees who were approached for an interview declined.

The official who ejected CBC News from the event said chapter president Cary Bowman would come outside for an interview, but he did not.

Follow up requests for a phone interview were not returned. Bowman is also the founder of Lucky Bastard Distillers.

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Events were scheduled Thursday evening as well, according to the club's website , when less than 50 VIP donors were  taken by bus to a secret location for a "model photoshoot party."

The site promised "one-on-one" time with some of the top models.

"We put a drink in your hand and drive you to the location. Free liquor and food will be steadily supplied by our handpicked waitresses," it said.

Previous controversy

One man who attended the Boys Lunch Out called CBC News afterward.

"I didn't know it was going to be like that. I don't want to go to a charity event and see women objectified and sexualized ," said Russell Storring , noting he has a young daughter.

'It was just about getting guys drunk.' — Attendee Russell Storring

"It was just about getting guys drunk. It's just a replacement for strip clubs."

A basic table at the lunch cost just under $1,000, while a VIP table went for $3,675. Perks included better views of the models and up to 45 free drink tickets per table.

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The event seems to have been profitable. Storring said that by the time he left, it had raised $90,000 through tickets, 50/50 draws and auctions for a chance to drive a race car, attend the NHL All Star game, and trips to Las Vegas.

The club drew fire for the same event in 2015 over a racy online promotional image.

Children's needs

The Progress Club's website lists 20 charities it supports through this event and others. It says its mission is "helping those in need."

"In particular we focus on children's needs," the site says.

Some charities that received donations were shocked to hear how the funds were raised.

"I wasn't aware of this. It's definitely not in line with our values," said Carm Michalenko, executive director of the Saskatoon Community Foundation.

The foundation is one of the largest recipients on the site's list of supported charities, with more than $50,000. Michalenko said she had no idea this was happening, and pledged to investigate further.

Michalenko said she's been an advocate for women in business for many years.

"I'm surprised this is still happening. I thought we'd turned a corner in society," she said.

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A Saskatoon Catholic elementary school is also a big recipient. No one from Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools would agree to an interview. An official, however, sent an email saying the division has concerns and would be raising them privately with the Progress Club.

But one charity defended the event.

"We're very appreciative of the Progress Club. We don't feel it's our job to police fundraising," Bruce Acton, chair of the St. Paul's Hospital Foundation, said after the event was described to him.

Acton said the hospital has benefited greatly from Progress Club donations. The hospital's urology department is a $25,000 recipient.

When asked if the Boys Lunch Out is consistent with Catholic values, Acton said that doesn't necessarily apply to fundraising.

"There's a lot of fashion shows," Acton said.

Rescue some, objectify others?

University of Saskatchewan professor Marie Lovrod used described the event as a "contradiction" and "hypocrisy."

"We rescue some people by objectifying others," said Lovrod , head of the university's women and gender studies program.

"You wouldn't hand a big cheque to a charity while watching women gyrating on a stage, right? Those are two different performances."

Lovrod said the power dynamics are also troubling. Attendees treat women as attractions, but also hold tremendous power over the charities, she said.

"That's why some may not comment or just call it a fashion show. It's difficult for groups depending on that money to say anything," she said.

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