Monday, July 25, 2011

Canadian Government Tries To Silence Artist Franke James

By Lloyd Alter, Toronto 
July 25, 2011
franke james image

Treehugger has been pleased to show the work of Franke James a number of times; delivers a strong environmental message in a humourous and trenchant style. She was off to Europe to tour 20 cities with her work. She has been critical of the Canadian government's policies with respect to the tar sands and climate change, but she is not exactly Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame, really. One would think that they had bigger fish to fry, but that didn't stop the government from stepping in to stomp her, with one top official saying:

"Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke James?"

So they phoned the corporate sponsor and got them to cancel their $ 75,000 grant, and started bullying the NGO that was putting the show together.

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Franke wonders:
How does it make sense to blacklist me? This is crazy! But apparently, I've 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!
Then there is the issue of freedom of expression.
Is this the Canada we want? A country that cracks down on artists who speak up when they see a government policy that's wrong, and that's endangering our children's futures? Dirty oil is making for dirty politics and it's soiling Canada's reputation - destroying the Canada we know and love.
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Friends and admirers are appalled. Bill McKibben writes:
Franke James is among the tiny handful of really powerful and profound artists who have taken on climate change - the most important topic on the planet, but one so big and all-encompassing that it often defies artistic interpretation. Her work is incredibly important for many of us around the world.
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Richarld Littemore, author of Climate Cover-up:
The words 'visual artist' do too little justice to Franke James. She is a commentator and educator, an entertainer and provocateur. Her thoughtful and thought-provoking work is whimsical, accessible and resolutely non-confrontational - sometimes indignant, but never impolite. Franke can't make me feel better about climate change, but she's one of the few people around who gives me hope."
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Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada:
Franke James is tackling a great Canadian taboo with humour and culture - insisting Canadians must act on climate protection despite polluting profits from the tar sands. She should be celebrated and supported as a Canadian treasure - instead our diplomatic circles are told to blacklist her from Canadian international auspices. Artists, environmentalists and anyone who cares about Canada's reputation in the world should rise up to support Franke's efforts.
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It is 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. It's not like it was government money paying for it, either. They should be ashamed. Now Franke is asking for help:
Whatever nationality you are, and wherever you are in the world, you can help to spread the news of this shocking interference and blacklisting by the Canadian Government. It's an abuse of power, and a threat to free speech and freedom of expression. In many countries, artists and writers are afraid to speak out for fear of being punished. But few would point the finger at Canada as that type of oppressive country. Sadly, I am being punished for speaking out. I believe this attempt to muzzle me calls for immediate and strong action. Please see ideas below on how you can lend your support.
She asks for comments in support, donations to PEN International, or suggestions for sponsors. More at Franke James.

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