The Harper Government is sending out a clear message at home and abroad that if your politics are not correct your art shouldn’t be shown, and if your findings are inconvenient your science doesn’t matter.
A recent Vancouver Sun discussed the silencing of Fisheries Department scientist Kristi Miller. Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island whose breakthrough research into the deaths of West Coast salmon was published in the top scientific journal Science last year. The study suggests the possibility of a mysterious virus killing huge numbers of Fraser River salmon before they reach their spawning grounds. According to The Sun:
The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.
...Miller is still not allowed to speak publicly about her discovery, and the Privy Council Office and Fisheries Department defend the way she has been silenced.
But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.
“There is no question in my mind it’s muzzling,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.
“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”
In a similar chilling manner, the Harper Government has recently lead a campaign to silence award-winning artist and author Franke James. James was asked by an international non-profit, Nektarina Nonprofit, which educates, connects and inspires people to care about their communities and their environment, to mount a series of art exhibitions in Europe. As Nektarina’s website states:
The uniqueness of her artwork is in combining science, art and storytelling, creating powerful and thought-provoking visual essays. Franke does not preach, she tells a story, educates and explains, leaving it to the viewers to make their own choices and decisions.
The goal of the ambitious show, organized by Nektarina Non Profit, is to raise environmental awareness with youth, and inspire teens to make their own climate change art. The show has the support of the Ministry of Culture in Latvia and the Croatian Agency for Environment. It’s a huge honor for me — but I can also see that it’s a direct result of the visual essays I’ve written, and the green conscience workshops I’ve done with students in Canada and the USA.
But apparently, Franke has ignited the Harper Government’s fury by telling the truth about Canada’s footdragging on climate action. And having the audacity to advocate pollution taxes and tougher environmental policies on Alberta’s Tar Sands – recommendations which are in line with many respected environmental NGO’s including the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation. Nektarina Non-Profit has issued this statement about the concerted effort the Harper Government, through its Canadian embassies, have been making to shut down James’ art exhibit:
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.
This was most surprising given Canada´s reputation over many decades as a leader in promoting democratic freedoms, the right of free expression and also supporting the international community (through its role as a peace keeper and in many other ways). It is clear that Canada has a difficult position to resolve in relation to its narrower national interests (in particular the exploitation of natural resources) and its wider responsibility in the international community. We will continue to try to reach out to Canadian society and we feel sure that the positions taken do not reflect the attitudes of Canadian society as a whole and we are confident that we have many friends in the country.
To help make Franke’s powerful “What Can One Person Do?” exhibit a reality, please consider donating $5 or more to Nektarina Non-Profit (the corporate sponsor cancelled after pressure from the Harper Government). Click here to donate on-line. And here’s a challenge from me – I’ll match every $5 that one of you, my blog readers, donates (you let me know in the comment section or by email at email@example.com). Let’s see what we can do!
To read more about the anti-democratic, bullying actions of the Harper Government, as well as more ideas for taking action, go to Franke James’ blog.