In July, Cathryn Wellner wrote about Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s attempts to silence environmental artist Franke James. James had been planning a European tour to promote her art and teach youth how to make climate change art. However, when the Canadian Embassy in Croatia contacted James’ sponsor and let them know that the government did not support her show, they withdrew their sponsorship and the tour was cancelled. Today, James was in Ottawa kicking off an art show called Banned on the Hill steps away from Parliament Hill.
Click through to learn more about how James brought her show art show to Ottawa and about the message she wants to send to Canada’s Prime Minister.
Who’s the Idiot?
When the Canadian government tried to silence Franke James, she didn’t go away quietly. She put up a fight. Since the end of July, James has been documenting the government’s actions against her and her response. When the Canadian government first learned that the Canadian Embassy in Croatia had offered support to James’ art show, a senior Canadian government official asked:
Who’s the idiot who approved of an art show by that woman, Franke James?
James turned that around and instead asked “Who’s the idiot who blacklisted Franke James?”
Raising Funds to Occupy Ad Space
After having her European tour cancelled, Franke James decided to raise money to “get loud in Ottawa.” In order to fund her project, James turned to LoudSauce, a crowdfunded media buying platform to spread ideas that matter. Using LoudSauce, James raised $4,226 from 82 people to allow her to bring her “Dear Prime Minister” campaign to Ottawa. Instead of the planned (but cancelled) European tour of 20 cities with 40 framed pieces of art, James came to Ottawa with six posters occupying public ad space for citizen voices. Franke James is pictured here at the launch of the show in Ottawa with LoudSauce co-founder Colin Mutchler.
Dear Prime Minister…
At the launch of her Ottawa art show today, Franke James presented her posters to people who joined her public walking tour of the exhibit, located on Bank Street in Ottawa (between Wellington and Queen). Interspersed among “Because I am a Girl” campaign posters and McDonald’s ads, James’ posters all carried a “Dear Prime Minister” message. They covered a variety of environmental themes, such as the tar sands, global warming, greenhouse gases and rising CO2 emissions. One key message was that the government needs to stop blacklisting and muzzling environmental messengers, including Environment Canada scientists.
Proof is in the Documents
In order to learn more about the events that led to the cancellation of her European tour, Franke James submitted an Access to Information request for internal documents pertaining to the decision. The files were released to her earlier this week and she picked up the files upon arrival in Ottawa on Tuesday. The file includes 165 pages of internal documents and demonstrate that the Canadian government was concerned about the message Franke James was spreading. In e-mail correspondence and internal memos, government officials noted concerns that “the funding proposed would not be consistent with our interests and approach and would in fact run counter to Canada’s interests more broadly.”
The Harper government has been widely criticized for their inaction on environmental issues. Speaking today in Ottawa, James noted that there is a clear link between the economy and the environment and that this is missing in Harper’s approach to governing the country. This clear link is evident in many ways, with one recent example being the significant decrease in unemployment in Germany through investments in renewable energy. There does not have to be a jobs versus environment battle, however it is time for the government to start prioritizing jobs that will help the environment and the economy, rather than jobs that hurt the environment.
Support Franke James and Ask Harper to Stop Blacklisting
If you want to support the efforts of Franke James and other activists seeking to put an end to Harper’s blacklisting of strong environmental voices, you can participate by spreading the word and signing this petition:
All photos taken by Annie Urban.