Environmental recklessness trumps democracy
It seems Canada is not about to let one of its artists draw attention to the country’s miserable record on environmental issues. The official response to Nektarina’s refusal to cancel James’s show was delivered verbally: “She speaks against the Canadian Government.”
The intimidation did not stop there. Here’s another quote from the Nektarina Web site: “In the past few months we have encountered many difficulties in organizing the exhibitions, usually connected to interventions of the Canadian Government or institutions under Canadian governmental control. We continued to look for ways to collaborate with the home land of the artist, although at times we felt patronized and even intimidated, as a small NGO trying to reach an understanding with a powerful state.”
Apparently the Harper Government is unwilling to allow an artist to be welcomed abroad if that private citizen dares call into question any of its policies. This is totally unacceptable censorship, and it is time for Canadians, and anyone else who believes in free speech, to speak out.
Other voices question the government’s position
Charles Côté asked two experts to give their opinions for La Presse. Both Pierre Bosset, professor of law at the University of Quebec in Montreal and his colleague, Pierre Trudel of the University of Montreal, agreed James is being inappropriately and arbitrarily censored.
According to The Tyee’s detailed account, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade denies interference. The federal government also disputes the accusation of censorship, “claiming ‘Ms. James’ characterisation of her dealings with Candian officials does not appear to be based on facts.’”
Treehugger calls it “the kind of heavy-handed tactic that in the end, causes the government more embarrassment than if they had just let the show go ahead.” Greenpeace remarks, “Opposing the tar sands publicly in Canada is increasingly unpopular (at least with the government). Asking important questions such as ‘Why do we choose to wreck the environment in the very long term to save the economy in the very short term?’ or ‘Who is paying to clean up pollution?’ is now politically incorrect.’”
Support freedom of expression
I am an enthusiastic fan of Franke James’s work. Her visual essays have prodded me into giving more thought to my own contributions to the laying to waste of our beautiful planet. I encourage you to sign the petition below on behalf of this talented artist. Her work is too inspiring to be limited by the politics of intimidation.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Prime Minister, here is that civics lesson your people missed. Under the Constitution Act of 1982, these Fundamental Freedoms are guaranteed to everyone in Canada: “(a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.”
Those freedoms do not stop at our borders.
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Graphics from Franke James, used by permission
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