Blacklisted by Canada… for drawing climate-change cartoons?

by Franke James

Mike Shanahan

Thanks to Mike Shanahan in the UK, for ‘drawing’ attention to my censorship problem with his post. He nailed it! When I first heard I was on Harper’s Blacklist for my cartoons, I could hardly believe it. What? I’m getting in trouble for drawing cartoons? I thought I lived in a free country where people are allowed — and encouraged — to speak up!

But the climate in Canada is increasingly fearful. I recently hosted a blacklisting party to celebrate the crowd-funding of my outdoor media show in Ottawa — and to build support for when the show debuts in Ottawa. Over 100 guests came to my party — which was great. But many people didn’t come because, as one editor said, “I totally get this Government Blacklisting, but I’m afraid we’ll lose our funding if we come…” 

Mike Shanahan communicates about climate change and other environment and development issues at IIED ( and beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter: @shanahanmike

A guest post by Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan

Canadian artist Franke James says the government of Canada has flexed its diplomatic muscle to block exhibitions in Europe of her visual essays about climate change. Now she is fighting back.

As Franke puts it:

The short story is that the NGO in Croatia, who was organizing the touring exhibit of my climate change art, was warned by the Cultural Officer from the Canadian Embassy not to show my work because “Don’t you know this lady speaks against the Canadian Government?” The proof given was my Dear Prime Minister essay. The Cultural Officer went on to say that when a senior official Ottawa found out about my proposed show he said, “Who’s the idiot who approved of an art show by that woman, Franke James?”

Franke says that “this blacklisting and back-room badmouthing” led sponsors and venues to withdraw support for her European tour.

Can Canada really reach across the Atlantic and influence art shows in Europe, where governments generally consider climate change a problem?

Franke says yes. And with her exhibitions in 20 European cities cancelled she is taking aim at the Canadian capital Ottawa.

She has raised funds for an outdoor exhibition there in November and is making an animation about her tussles with her government, to be unveiled at the UN climate change conference in Durban in December.

Franke’s work is colourful and quirky and often funny, but it carries a message that clashes with Canada’s current stance on climate change.

As an example, here are some frames from the Dear Prime Minister piece, in which Franke calls for a carbon tax that makes the polluter pay for the damage they cause.

Given that a new study commissioned by Canada’s federal government has just warned that climate change could cost the country $5 billion per year by 2020, and $21-43 billion per year by 2050, Franke is asking a good question.

Visit Mike Shanahan’s site

19 Responses: One Comment and 18 Tweets

Twitter: 2 (Showing 18)