Banned on the Hill (and in Europe!)
Artist Franke James creates visual essays about social and environmental issues, especially climate change. Nektarina Non Profit, an organization trying to educate people on living sustainable lifestyles, was planning a 2011-2012 tour of Franke James’ artwork to 20 European cities. The goal was to inspire youth to become more eco-friendly. As reported by Voices-Voix, The Canadian Embassy provisionally approved $5,000 for the project, but withdrew the funding a month later, and refused to support Franke James in any other way. James alleges that the government also attempted to prevent private sponsors from assisting her tour, and covered up its motives for intervening – motives based on silencing advocacy for the environment.
Franke described her censorship case to us, including ample documentation:
I am a Canadian artist and author who has a well documented art censorship case which took place in 2011. PEN Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada published a press release November 24/11 expressing their concern over the Government’s interference in my solo European art show.
“The government of Canada has no right to determine what is an acceptable opinion for an individual citizen, on climate change or any matter of public interest,” said Charlie Foran, President of PEN Canada, “To do so is clearly not in the spirit of the Charter and the long history of freedom of expression in Canada.”
Greg Hollingshead, Chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada said, “The right to freedom of expression includes freedom from official disapproval, including the sort of bureaucratic interference encountered by Franke James.” [http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=8999 ]
I made Canadian Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper’s “blacklist” for disagreeing with government policy on climate change. (more background below) In my case, the Harper Government interfered behind-the-scenes, ultimately causing the cancellation of my 20-city solo European art show which was to inspire youth to take action on climate change. Here are three documented examples of their interference:
I. The producer of my art exhibition (Sandra Antonovic, Director of Nektarina Non Profit) was warned by the cultural officer of the Canadian Embassy in Croatia, not to show my art because the artist, Franke James, “speaks against the Canadian Government”. This news was published in the Toronto Star, and on Nektarina’s website. [http://www.nektarinanonprofit.com/2011/07/bully-in-playground.html]
II. Access-to-information documents (ATIP) obtained by me on October 31/11, show that Jeremy Wallace, the Deputy Director of Climate Change at DFAIT, stepped in to cancel all financial [http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=8533#disapproval ] and even no-cost moral support for my show. [http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=8533#moral_support ]
This cancellation was after the cultural officer at the Canadian Embassy was already notified that funds for the project were approved. [http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=8533#approval ]
Surprisingly, government spokespeople denied in the media that funding was ever approved or withdrawn. The ATIP documents prove that this is not true.
III. Access-to-information documents obtained by me on December 13/11, show that Scott Heatherington, the Canadian Ambassador of the Baltic States, interfered behind the scenes to dissuade people from supporting my show. Ambassador Heatherington shared with his Canadian Embassy colleagues that my visual essay on the tar sands was the reason that he could not support my art show.
I am part of a larger pattern of bullying and silencing critics in Canada. Many individuals and organizations have been attacked by the Canadian Government for disagreeing with them on a range of issues including the Census, the Canadian Wheat Board, Nuclear power, and Environmental issues. [See more at: http://voices-voix.ca/en] Just recently my MP, Joe Oliver (Minister of Natural Resources) published an open letter labeling environmentalists as “radicals”. An access-to-information request by Climate Action Network to the Department of Foreign Affairs revealed that the media, environmental and aboriginal groups are listed as “adversaries” by the Federal Government in a public relations plan called the “Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy.” [http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/01/26/pol-oilsands-campaign.html]
If you would like to help, please sign this petition.
In November 2011 Franke James produced the video “Banned on the Hill (and in Europe!)” about how her European art show tour to educate youth about climate change was curtailed by behind-the-scenes interference by the Canadian Government.