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Harper Government Trying to Silence Canadian Artist

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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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210 comments

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7:18PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

freedom of speech, right?

10:01AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

Never be silenced. The erosion of our democracy is getting pretty scary.

7:24PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

Noted.

5:54AM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Scott M. The Canadian Government weren't sponsoring her International tour. A private company was. Well, until the Canadian Government threaten them that they would lose their Government contracts if they kept their sponsorship of Ms. James. So, Scott M., go back and read the FULL story again!

8:50AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

Seriously, what did she expect?
If you want to express an opinion to government there are the appropriate channels for that.

You go into someones house and pee on the floor, you lose your welcome.
She sounds to me like a self serving publicity seeking whiner.

1:31PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Take this story to the media.

1:05PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Bravo Franke James!! Petition signed.

7:31AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

The Goverment doesnt want to pay for her platform, this is silencing her. Get someone else to pay for her platform, as a canadian taxpayer Im glad they arent subsidizing a person like her. If her message is so great her followers can support her.

7:29AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

The government didnt want to fund it because this fruitcake franke james was going to be involved, surprise, surprise, the goverment withdrew their funding, I guess they actually wanted to get some results for the money spent. Who would have thought it....

4:26AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Nothing would surprise me from this Right Wing Fundamentalist freak show we call a Conservative party.

Harper's such an egomaniac he had all the photos of past prime ministers removed from the hall they decorated since the first Prime minister was elected and replaced them all with photos of himself.

What a freak!

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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