4 Warning Signs that Free Expression is at Risk In Canada
by Franke James
And in fact…
Nope. I never thought for a minute I’d get in trouble for speaking up — because I live in Canada! But I did get in trouble. So let me tell you the 4 warning signs I see…
However the artwork I submitted was considered too provocative and off-message from the sponsor’s brand.
I could have given the example of Librarians being muzzled. Or Canada’s wounded soldiers who have been told not to criticize the government online. Or aboriginal groups who are protesting the government’s failure to consult, but this talk was brief… So I focused on scientists being muzzled, and pointed to how they are protesting the ‘death of evidence’ . This photo (licensed from CP) shows the protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, July 2012. In September 2013, scientists again protested the muzzling of science on the Hill — and on university campuses. “The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty.”
You know Canada has a problem when our friendly neighbours to the south give us sharp rebukes like this recent Editorial in the New York Times, which points out that the Harper government’s silencing of scientists is an attempt to “guarantee public ignorance”. I agree. The Canadian public at large is not worried about climate change because the scientific evidence has been buried. One infuriating example: In 2008, a major Health Canada report on the impact of climate change on human health was suppressed. If Canadians were properly informed they would want to take action rather than hiding their heads in the tar sands.
News of Harper’s Enemy List broke in July 2013. I took the opportunity to write a Letter to the Editor at the Hill Times stating that the PMO’s Enemy List infringes on our rights to free expression. Many people are afraid to speak up lest they get on Harper’s Enemy List too!
See Voices-Voix for who is who on the blacklist flag above. Below is a short summary of how I discovered I was blacklisted by the Harper Government in 2011 and why they were interfering in my proposed European art show… Read the full story in Banned on the Hill.
The AGO crowd cheered and broke out in spontaneous applause when I said, “If art has to agree with government policies then art is government propaganda”.
— Marie-Hélène Ratel (@MHRatel) October 3, 2013
In September 2011, I hosted a ‘Blacklisting Party‘ to raise funds for my protest art show in Ottawa in November 2011. The ‘thank you’ note below is a perfect example of a person self-censoring themselves out of fear of government reprisals.
In May 2013, I shared the news of the Guardian UK writing about my new book with a friend from an environmental organization. His response is an example of the culture of fear in Canada — and why an independent individual like me has an important role to play in speaking up.
Here’s the wrap-up on how we can fight for our right to free expression! I had learned some hard lessons in how corporations and the Canadian government can stifle free expression when you are “off-message”. So I turned to the very democratic crowd-funding platform Indiegogo to help me raise funds for an outdoor art show. My pitch…
I wanted to raise $5,000 to put this poster up in Ottawa.
Within 45 days, 221 people had pitched in more than enough money to make it happen!
The posters went up in Ottawa and succeeded in getting people talking about climate change (and government censorship). There was media coverage from coast-to-coast, in newspapers, online, radio and TV. And some in the USA too.
Enough money was raised to also take the posters to Halifax. Dalhousie University asked me to give a talk to 375 students. and conduct an art workshop. It was a big success.
So does government censorship of the arts work? Playwright Michael Healey nails it…
Then I showed the audience my new poster opposing the Keystone XL pipeline…
And I announced my BIG news…
4 Warning Signs Credits
“Four Warning Signs” copyright Franke James, 2013. All writing, illustration and photography by Franke James with the following exceptions in order of appearance…
“Franke James with cardboard Ai Weiwei” photo by Henry’s Camera staff
Billboard art – “Decked Mackerel” by Mary Pratt
Billboard art – “The Stuff of Life” by Jack Shadbolt “Death of Evidence” photo by Fred Chartrand, Canadian Press
New York Times Editorial: Silencing Scientists by Verlyn Klinkenborg
The Guardian UK: Artist finds inspiration in Canadian government’s attempt to silence her by Suzanne Goldenberg
“Franke James in Halifax” photo by Nick Pearce, Dalhousie News
Michael Healey quote “Art Under Harper” Broken Pencil Magazine
The Ai Weiwei: Voices of Freedom event was organized by the CJFE and the AGO.
— Sean Magee (@SS_Magee) October 3, 2013
Buy Franke’s new book, Banned on the Hill