We are living in interesting times, as the saying goes. Here in Canada, the house of cards that is the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper is starting to self-destruct; the only surprising thing to me is that it took this long to happen. The Harper government is throwing bodies overboard as fast as they can, hoping to avert the crisis and avoid closer scrutiny by voters and the media. Senator Mike Duffy, receiver of $90,000 personal cheques from Harper’s Chief of Staff and filer of dubious expense claims, has left the Conservative caucus but remains at the taxpayer’s expense a member of the Senate. Senator Pamela Wallin, whose exorbitant expenses were much defended by Harper & friends up until very recently, joined Duffy in his departure from the Conservative Senate caucus late last week, but (like Duffy) continues to receive her salary from us the taxpayers. Early this long weekend Sunday, as Stephen Harper prepared to exit the country for a visit to South America, Nigel Wright (writer of the afore-mentioned $90,000 personal cheque to Duffy) also announced his resignation from the PMO.
What other grenades remain in this government’s closet, waiting to explode? Stay tuned; but as a climate activist and mom who has seen her children’s health and climate stability being sacrificed on the alter of Harper’s pro-oil, short-term-profit agenda I’m having the best Victoria Day weekend I’ve had since Harper came to power in 2006. My schadenfreude meter was particularly high this morning when I noticed the hashtag #PMHarperShouldResign was trending on Twitter in both Ottawa and Toronto. Now that’s the start of a good holiday Monday!
One of the Canadians who has been speaking out fearlessly about the federal government’s muzzling of scientists and artists while it pursues its fossil-foolish goals is Toronto artist and writer (and friend of 350orbust) Franke James. Franke has a new graphic book, Banned On The Hill: A True Story of Dirty Oil And Government Censorship, and she’s got a IndieGoGo campaign to help spread the word about the book, which tells the story of how a single-minded focus on tar (“oil”) sands expansion at all costs, including democracy, is playing out in Canada right now under this government. If you want to support this talented and outspoken artist, as well as Canadian democracy, consider donating to the Banned on the Hill campaign.
Courageous and talented Canadian artist Franke James, whose 2011 European art tour was cancelled after interference from the Harper government, has recently published an illustrated essay on the current overlap of oil and state (with a large dose of anti-science, anti-democratic polemic) in Canadian politics. You can find Franke’s essay, What is Harper Afraid Of?, at FrankeJames.com, Here’s the animated version:
This week, Franke was interviewed on CBC Radio’s The Current, with this intro:
Franke James creates irreverent even whimsical art with a message about the environment, oil sands and climate change but when a federal bureaucrat accused her of creating a Fantasy, she filed an Access to Information request and discovered an email trail indicating officials at the Foreign Affairs Dept don’t seem to like her art and pulled funding because her work isn’t consistent with government interests. She says that opinion ended plans for a European art tour.
And don’t forget to check out Franke’s blog to read her full visual essay, Banned On The Hill (And In Europe!). And spread the word about her art show on to your circle. Let’s support freedom of speech in our country, and Franke James!
Blacklisted Canadian artist Franke James is becoming a mosquito in the ears of the Harper government.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the Harper government’s interference in the European tour of Canadian environmental artist, writer, and educator Franke James. This interference lead to the withdrawal of private funding for the tour, and ultimately its cancellation by the sponsoring NGO. Franke’s response to this – after the initial disbelief and bewilderment – has been to come out fighting the heavy-handed and anti-democratic actions of the Canadian federal government. A petition has been started on CARE2 by writer Cathryn Wellner. It reads:
You just can’t keep a good woman down, at least not permanently. Canadian artist Franke James was invited to tour Europe to inspire youth with her approach to climate change art. (See Harper Government Trying to Silence Canadian Artist.) In a move reminiscent of the quote often attributed (probably incorrectly) to Queen Victoria, the Canadian government was not amused.
With pressure heavy on her Croatian sponsor and embassies backing away as if she were contagious, Franke ended up canceling the tour. Anyone with less backbone might have quietly tucked her tail between her legs and slunk back to the studio.
Franke is made of sterner stuff. She has the kind of integrity and grit that are needed to fend off threats to democracy. So she has teamed up with LoudSauce to take her environmental message to Ottawa. Her canvas will be billboards and bus shelters in the nation’s capital.
As a new member of “The Harper Blacklisted Club,” she joins other artists and scientists [see Harper’s Humiliating Muzzle on Scientists] whose work has incurred the Conservative government’s displeasure. Fortunately, now there is another way to let the government know they are not the only ones displeased. We can sign the petition below and donate whatever we can to fund the billboard and bus-shelter messages.
Let’s help Franke James be the mosquito buzzing in the government’s ears.
Now any good Canadian will understand the metaphor of a mosquito’s ability to bring low the mightiest among us with sheer annoying persistence (there’s a t-shirt out there that reads: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito” – not that the words bed and PM Harper should ever be in the same sentence!). So, to help Franke – and annoy the heck out of Harper and his cronies – here’s a few things you can do:
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.
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:
When Nektarina decided to present Franke’s artwork in a series of exhibitions in Europe and Central Asia, we felt confident of the support of Canada – Franke’s homeland. Regrettably, the Canadian Government has since declined support for the project, verbally explaining that “She (Franke James) speaks against the Canadian Government”. Nektarina Non Profit was deeply surprised and disappointed by the reaction of official Canada, yet we decided to carry on with the project.Nektarina Non Profit believes that it is the right of every person – artists and intellectuals in particular – to freely express their opinion and to be able to pose the question about their government’s accountability on specific decisions. This is all the more important when such governmental decisions potentially impact the welfare of a large demographic, natural resources or both.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
From My Green Conscience blog, a fabulous visual essay review of the book “Climate Wars” by Eric Pooley. As My Green Conscience states:
Franke James merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet. Franke uses her skills as an artist, photographer and writer to create visual essays on environmental and social issues. She is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics, the game everyone plays.
Here are a few of the vivid and evocative images from Ms. James’ essay: