Canadian Government Tries to Silence Franke James

by Franke James

Franke James essay Dear PM

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

Memorable words from one of Canada’s top officials on hearing that
the Canadian Embassy in Croatia had offered support for Franke’s art show.

MAY 28, 2013: Please see my new book, Banned on the Hill: a True Story of Dirty Oil and Government Censorship, and the new Indiegogo campaign to get people talking about climate change — even the head honchos in Ottawa.

NOVEMBER 10, 2011: Please see the latest news about the Access to Information Documents and the billboard/poster show in Ottawa.

July 25, 2011 – Summary of the Problem:

The Canadian Government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, is actively working to shut down my solo European art exhibition, which is set to tour 20 cities in Europe. [Update Nov.10, 2011: Please see latest news about the Access to Information Documents]

Canadian officials have also bullied the NGO, Nektarina, and warned them repeatedly to cancel the exhibition because they are opposed to “Franke James.” They are doing everything in their power to make sure my show is killed. An employee with Amnesty International in Croatia reacted to the news by saying, “This is a sad day for Canadian democracy.”

“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.” ~ Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada

Please read the post below to understand the petro-state politics that are underlying this censorship — and see how you can lend your support.

My Reaction to the Blacklisting:

At first I couldn’t believe it. Me? Blacklisted? What?!

I’m the person who wouldn’t even build a green driveway without getting permission from City Hall! I believe in working with the system to change laws, not break them.

alice drawing from Paradise Unpaved by Franke James

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! (recommendations which are in line with many respected environmental NGO’s including the Pembina Institute.)

Since May 2011, the Canadian Government has been using underhanded, behind-the-scenes tactics to get my “What can one person do?” art show in Europe cancelled.

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.

You would think that Canada would be proud of me. And in fact, the show initially received enthusiastic responses from Canadian embassies in Europe, and a promise of funding. But in mid-May this support was suddenly cancelled by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, with the words, “Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke James?”

Here are two examples of the government’s interference to date:

    This past May, a Canadian Embassy official met with the show’s organizer, Nektarina Non Profit, in Croatia. She advised them to abandon the show because my Dear Prime Minister visual essay — created independently by me for the 2008 Federal Election — offended the Harper Government. It did not support any political party. It only asked that carbon polluters pay. (See my press release from 2008.)
    On July 13th, a Canadian Embassy official called Sandra Antonovic at Nektarina, and pressured her. The official reminded Sandra that she could apply for more grants in the future — and said that it was the artist (Franke James) they objected to. On July 22nd, Nektarina published an official statement on the bullying by the Harper Government. Here is an excerpt:

“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 homeland 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 peacekeeper 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.” ~ Sandra Antonovic, Nektarina Non Profit

Canadian Embassies can’t even offer me a Handshake

At first I was skeptical that the Canadian Embassies would be so hostile to “me”, a Canadian citizen and business-owner. I’ve even led a Trade Mission to Los Angeles a few years ago… So, I approached them myself asking if they would host a press conference to announce my show (as they do for other artists and authors). Surely, they will greet a Canadian artist with open arms?

But no… I was rebuffed on the phone, and by email. None of the Canadian embassies wants anything to do with me or the show. Not one embassy has agreed to honor the event. They can’t even offer me a handshake, which seems very strange and very ‘un-Canadian’.

Is the show being blocked because the Harper Government doesn’t want Canadians to worry about the tar sands, our largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution? All I can think is that it’s a wee bit inconvenient for them if my work shows up just when the European Union is deciding on the EU Fuel Directive which could slap a “dirty oil” label on the Tar Sands. Or the CETA negotiations.

Or maybe, they simply don’t want kids to learn how to protect the environment? Because that’s what the show is about.

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.

This climate change art show is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference. But it’s all at risk because of the blacklisting and interference by the Harper Government.

I could use your 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.

How can you help? Updated August 8th with news of the billboard art in Ottawa. Here are some ways:

  1. Make a pledge on LoudSauce.
  2. Leave your comment below about this blacklisting.
  3. PEN International and PEN Canada work to protect writers and artists right to free speech. Consider a donation.
  4. Share this blog post on Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

Support for Franke James

“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.”
~ Bill McKibben, Founder

“Franke James’ work is honest, powerful and funny. She has a rare ability to sweep past the polarization and complexity of critical issues and shine a stark spotlight without over simplifying. Her work is not be missed by anyone interested in climate change or the future of Canada!” ~ Tzeporah Berman,  Co-director Climate and Energy Greenpeace International

“Artistic communicator par excellence, Franke James is a Canadian visionary and master of inspiration for lighting the passions around the epochal realms of our time. Her visual essays brilliantly pare the broad complexities of climate change down to a human scale narrative that resonates with the Canadian public.”  Toby A. A. Heaps,  Editor-in-Chief, Corporate Knights Magazine

“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.”  ~ Richard Littlemore, co-author of Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

“Franke James is a unique asset to the climate movement: a fearless artist whose work simultaneously bursts with joyfulness and hard-hitting rationale about the current crisis to our planet. Without fail, after reading one of her visual essays, I’m always freshly motivated to address these challenges head-on.” ~ Jess Leber, Environment Editor,

“Franke James is a Canadian treasure whose art has helped to explain the global climate crisis in understandable and even humorous ways. She is meticulous about the facts and substance, but her voice is eminently refreshing and approachable. I love her art, and that she uses it for story-telling to raise awareness of humankind’s urgent challenge.” ~ Michael Noble, Fresh Energy

“Franke James’ artwork is a vital and beautiful tool to awaken greater consciousness and action on the part of people all over the world to confront our greatest challenge: climate change.” May Boeve, Executive Director,

“Franke James has an extraordinary talent for mixing engaging stories and the latest science to make action-provoking climate art.  Naturally, it has been a pleasure to work with Franke and Bill James on the CO2 Toaster website widget that has helped get the attention of hundreds of thousands of people to think more about humanity’s single most important environmental data.”  ~ Michael McGee, Creator of Earth’s CO2 Home Page

“Our climate experts are desperate to explain their science in a way that promotes action. So are environmentalists, social justice activists, and intellectuals of all stripe. Franke James just might have the key. Her visual essays make detailed, sound arguments, but they are delivered in a way that lets people hear. She eschews polemics, admits her own uncertainties, and draws everyone into the circle of change. Here’s one voice I’d like the whole world to hear.” ~ Cathryn Wellner, This Gives Me Hope

“I have long been a fan of Franke James’ unique brand of storytelling – so much so that I’ve borrowed from one of her best – Paradise Unpaved – and made it a centerpiece of more than 30 presentations on environmental leadership I have made to more than 4,500 people from across Canada. Her story of taking on City Hall for the right to build a green driveway is exceptional for its ability to engage diverse audiences on a very sensitive matter. Her literally “grassroots” activism gets people thinking how each of us contribute to the environmental challenges we face, and also to the solutions – and for doing so in a way that is empowering.” ~ David Noble, Principal, 2degreesC

For more information contact:

Franke James, Artist
Tel: 416-256-9166

Lisa Borden at Borden Communications.
Tel: 416-484-6489

miniature of Dear PM essay by Franke James

594 Responses: 105 Comments and 489 Tweets

  • Percy says:

    Wow, unbelievable. They actually tried to stop an art show from happening! That means that the Canadian government must believe that you are influencing people, which is a good position for you to be in. Plus, doing stuff like this in the days of Facebook and Twitter is not exactly the smartest thing that they could’ve done.

    I hope people use Twitter and Facebook to help spread the news about this shocking behavior from the Canadian Government. (I just tweeted about this.)

  • Jessica says:

    Franke, have you tried using crowd-funding? While they might try to strongarm NGO’s and sponsoring corporations… they can’t really strongarm (for example) 7500 individuals who’d be willing to pitch in 10 bucks a piece?

  • This is absolutely crazy and ridiculous.

    I simply don’t understand their reaction. Or more exactly, I understand it but that seems so idiotic from them to block you and your art !

    Yes, you are showing they are not acting in the best interest of their citizens, but well, aren’t artists the best people to do so ? Unlike plain and average citizens like me, like us, only artists can have a large impact on an individual basis !

    I mean, since I read you, you had made me think about climate change, my impact, what should I do and so on. You made me laugh, you amazed me… Each time I read your essays I am just looking for more.

    I wrote a blog post on this situation. ( ) I really hope this will help.

    Don’t give up hope, and please keep us posted !

    With my warmest regards, from France.

  • Franke James examples creative brilliance, powerful voice and female gumption. Blacklisting her or any artist just isn’t right. Governments rearing their ugly heads like this show who and what they really are. I agree social media will have a field day with this, to your advantage I hope Franke – you deserve better.

  • Dorian says:

    I am astonished at the audacity of the government in interfering with this art show. I am particularly appalled that they would threaten a private sponsor with the loss of government contracts if they contributed to the production of the show. That is not how government contracts are meant to be awarded. Let’s make sure that, by the actions taken to silence this artist, we bring even more attention to the issues raised in her show. The environment and the economy are inseparable!

  • It’s extremely worrying that our government would selectively deny support to artists that have some criticism to share. A government with such a weak ego that it feels threatened by artwork is never good news.

  • David Hart Dyke says:

    This is just one of many measures we can expect from Harper’s majority government to slowly, surely strangle all opposition, to silence every voice but his own. Stephen Harper will destroy everything that makes us proud to be Canadians and turn us into just another conscienceless client state of the USA. No doubt, like Brian Mulroney, he’ll go home to the United States to retire.

  • Sarah says:

    I love your work and find this unbelievable.

  • Danno says:

    Even if Harper manages to shut down your exhibit, your work has been a resounding success in exposing the very point you are trying to illustrate.

    This government is frightening and we are seeing more examples every day of a leader who is a control freak who is evolving into an intolerant fascist.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Urooj says:

    So disheartening. I wish I was surprised, but silencing environmental advocates is becoming incredibly common under our current government. Their short-sighted leadership will do very little to help Canada in the long run. How can any economy be consistently sustained while it ignores the ecosystem that supports it? And compromises the health of its citizens (or “consumers”)? A sick population doesn’t help reap in profits, and diminishing non-renewable resources will drastically limit how much can be produced in the pursuit of money. We need to act and take a stand. This is unacceptable; we define ourselves as a free and democratic country, yet the tactics we are using are observed by dictatorships and places where opposing opinions are stomped upon.

  • MoS says:

    Harper is despotic. The most authoritarian prime minister in Canadian history has transformed the government of Canada into his personal agency. It matters not the slightest to him that the treasury he controls is also filled by the 61% of the voting public that did not support him. This is to be expected from fundamentalist thinking.

  • […] I haven’t seen this covered in the mainstream press, but I understand that Artist Franke James has become the latest target of bully-boy tactics by some in the Federal Government. No government should be interfering with the expression of its citizens, and the cultural commentary of artists is sacrosanct – regardless of its political content…. […]

  • I wish that I were surprised, but I sadly am not. Canadians deserve better, and our PLANET deserves better. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives need to allow artists to freely express their ideas, without interference or censorship. Anything less is an infringement on their rights, and an affront to our personal freedoms.

  • Jymn says:

    A tragic and sad day for Canada. The Conservatives feel they can get away with anything and stifle all criticism because they own the press. Artists are observers and truth tellers; therefore they are a threat to such a tightly-controlled message machine.

  • […] She asks for comments in support, donations to PEN International, or suggestions for sponsors. More at Franke James. […]

  • Ken Dresen says:

    It’s seeming less and less of “a coincidence” that the Summerworks funding was cancelled, (after Harper expressed displeasure over their choice of play to workshop) as Heritage Minister James Moore has stated.

    ‘Coincidence,’ above, should not be seen as a quote. James Moore’s actual words regarding the funding cuts to the Summerworks Theatre Festival were, that it had “nothing whatever to do with the ‘Homegrown’ play.” I infer coincidence, but in light of the interference discussed on this page, I have far less doubt.

    The Jian Ghomeshi/James Moore interview;

  • kim_in_to says:

    At the same time as we should be calling and writing to Harper to express our feelings, what about the corporate sponsor? Can we know who the sponsor is, and would it make sense to start a campaign to protest the sponsor’s decision? Is it someone we can boycott?

  • Dear Franke,

    This is infuriating but unfortunately not surprising from the Petrocrats.

    Has any of your work been translated into French? I’m sure it would have a good echo here in Québec, and also in Francophone countries in Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

    Harper, DÉGAGE, as the Tunisians would say!

  • Oh, Franke, This grieves me so. I am totally flummoxed that CANADA (of all places!) would resort to such behaviour! Wow. How disheartening! And how damaging for Canada’s reputation! I would never in a million years have thought Canada capable of such repressive action. It’s so, I don’t know, un-Canadian!! Have you written to Prince Charles? I would.

  • […] She asks for comments in support, donations to PEN International, or suggestions for sponsors. More at Franke James. […]

  • I’m American and I look to Canada to be a better place. But the corruption of the tar sands money is destroying the best of Canada. Canadians are the only people who can put a stop to it. Thanks so much, Franke, for doing your part!

  • Amy says:

    This is ridiculous and embarrassing! Best of luck to you.

  • No Canadian government has ever been cited for contempt before.

    The Washington Post
    By Associated Press, Monday, March 21, 2011

    This week, a parliamentary committee slapped the government with the first contempt ruling in Canada’s history, saying the Conservatives had hidden the full costs of a spending program.

  • G&M: If Steve Harper’s an economist, I’m the Queen of Sheba.

    The ammunition to bury the Conservatives is overwhelming. Yet a majority of Canadians still don’t see it.

  • J. says:

    As Jessica mentioned above, crowd-sourcing could be a great alternative. Try or the like?

    It would also be an extremely pleasing way to tell the Conservative Gov’t to shove it up their– ahem… that you don’t need nor want their assistance, and that it’s the support of Canadians themselves that you identify as an important resource.

    Best of luck!

  • Wendy says:

    I am simply dumbfounded. This is not the Canada I have always admired from across the border. This is what I expect to hear about China not Canada. Amazing in a truly sad way.

  • Juliette says:

    You know you must be doing something right if they’re trying to shut you down…
    Still, it sucks.

  • I’m completely behind you on this. After publishing a major article on tar sands on my own blog recently (link above) it’s a wonder the Canadian Government hasn’t noticed me!

    Perhaps you could contact RAVEN for a good word:

  • Joanne Mills says:

    This proves that Steven Harper has absolutely no sense of humor, and that Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Shame on you Steven Harper for trying to silence a Canadian citizen who is protecting the future for your children and grandchildren.
    If he can’t accept humorous criticism, he doesn’t deserve to represent us on the world stage.
    Thank you Franke for speaking up for all of us and following your conscience so perfectly. My wish is that everyone who reads this blog will send you a donation to make your show a success. Hmmm? Aren’t donations tax deductible?
    I personally pledge $100.00 to your show. Now there’s only $74,900 to go.

  • Matthew Planchard says:

    This is unbelievable. Suppression of an artist by the government is a far cry from the free speech and personal freedom that humans have a right to enjoy.

  • You know you’re doing great things when the really small minded BIG GUYS come after you. Congratulations!!!

  • […] Not only is she being ignored by Canadian embassies where she goes – there has even been some pressure put on local NGOs that were helping her to drop their […]

  • Two issues: Democracy and climate.

    The atmosphere is being recklessly altered without due regard for the short and long term consequences. Scientists are being muzzled and business interests have unfettered access to media to spread disinformation.

    An artist stands up, speaks out, and our Government actually takes the step of attempting to shut Franke down. In terms of the degradation of our democracy, that is a giant step. Artistic freedom and freedom to speak out on anything are hallmarks of our democracy.

    Both issues show Harper & Co. acting recklessly and dangerously.

    Support Franke because her issues are our issues and humanity’s issues.


  • Wow – definitely hit a nerve.

    Go Franke!

  • Blaine says:

    This kind of attack is expected from such an ideologically based party with no compassion or grasp on consequences and reality. Don’t let them take the fight out of you!

  • David says:

    Can this be crowd sourced à la Kickstarter?

  • Daharja says:

    So much for free speech!

    I’m sharing this where I can, and I honestly hope that those who would silence you come to learn – quickly! – that while Canadians may disagree on a whole range of issues, they *do* value free speech and the right of their fellow countryfolk to be heard.

    Good luck!

    From Leanne in New Zealand.

  • Franke James says:

    Thanks to everyone for your comments and perspective on this censorship! I am looking at crowdsourcing — unfortunately, Kickstarter only works if you live in the USA.

  • Joshy Pants says:

    Hi I’m Josh I am a greenpeacer in San Diego just letting you know what you’re doing is appsolutely incredible and I truly admire and respect you’ve accomplished all on your own. You are truly an inspiration of what we can do for our planet. So thank you seriously.. never give up, never hold back and neither will we. We will make a change.. we are making the change, we are the change.

    much love from greenpeace and I =]

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your wonderful comment — really appreciate it. I’m not into direct actions like GP is, but I admire Greenpeacers a lot for their courage and commitment.

    A friend of mine who works at Greenpeace Canada, says that there are many shades of activism, from black to white. Some people take action in their personal lives, some draw pictures, some speak out, and some are willing to risk arrest. You guys are doing a great job. Loved the recent Barbie campaign!

    Whatever action we take it’s important that we do what we believe is right.

  • gisele grossmann says:

    Hi, Franke

    Great work. Congratulations.

  • MJ says:

    I guess you know you’re doing pretty amazing work, when they all go to that much trouble to try to shut you up. Keep up the wonderful art! Thank you for all you do.

  • Eamon McDermott says:

    First they muzzled the scientists reporting on the environment, now they muzzle the artists. Where will this stop? Hopefully your struggles can bring this issue to the attention of more Canadians.

  • Eileen says:

    This government is truly trying to turn Canada into a petrostate.

    So much for our ‘ethical oil’.

  • Kathryn Foley says:

    I’m sorry I’ve never heard of you before but I am horrified by the political climate in Canada. I fled the US in 2006 (before Obama was even in the media) and have been very disappointed by the direction Canada is going. Harper is very bad for Canada’s sincerity in wanting to be a rational voice. I don’t have money for you but if you ever want to come to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, you will find us an artistic, freedom-loving people and we would embrace your art. We love our environment and share your concerns. PLEASE don’t give up trying to get your show in Europe.

  • Franck Roussel says:

    Thank you for opening our eyes a bit more, useful work :)

  • Oh, Franke! I wish I could say I’m surprised. Canada used to be a different sort of country, respected by the world. Now it’s being flushed down the loo. I really hope that the tour happens in spite of the feds, and that you can thumb your nose at them. The kids you meet will love you!

  • Bibianne says:

    Geez – I always knew Steve was against the environment and against the arts, but this is absurd. How do his people find the time to pick on someone like Franke James? The CPC is like an anti-environmental, anti-science, anti-arts, anti-democracy Nazi party!

  • Jen says:

    There are very few things that make me embarassed to be Canadian and this is one of them. I can’t take 3.5 more years of this asshat.

  • Gina says:

    I’m not at all surprised by this. With very few exceptions, Canadian diplomats are an ignorant, closed-minded bunch when it comes to anything cultural. I know because I used to work at one of our embassies — I could write a book about the many examples I witnessed. They are just civil servants with one thing in mind: to make as few waves as possible in order to get their pension. And when they have to answer to a Super-Duper Ignoramus like John Baird, you get this kind of result.

  • I wrote to La Presse and they are featuring your story on the first page of their website this morning (July 28). I am very angry at Harper for all the things he does and I am aware of quite a few of them. Last winter he prevented a world-famous Mexican chef from coming to Montreal for the Montreal in Lights gastronomy and arts festival. You are not alone!

  • Edith says:

    I truly can’t believe this! We are in a free country… no?! We are not gonna let this pass without saying nothing!! What’s next? Censure on the web? You have the right to express yourself! It just tell us, yep once again, that Harper hate Artist … I was in choc with the interview with Margie Gillis ( Sun Media) now im totally Mad! He want the war, is gonna have it! ;)
    Keep your good work! i’ll post this to my friends, because canadians need to know about that!!!

    ++++ full energy xx and love! :)

  • Peter says:

    As sad and unfair as the predicament of Ms Franke is, we Canadians know that this is only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of politically-driven censorship. In Quebec, that type of low level politics is not appreciated as clearly demonstrated in the last general elections (my thoughts also go the rapid and full recovery of Mr Layton, a true art lover).
    I sincerely hope that Ms Franke will find other financial means to present her marvelous artwork abroad.

  • Mathieu says:

    This is a shame… BUT the good news is that by the mere fact they censored you, your work will inarguebly diffuse to a larger number of people (included myself, I googled your name after reading La Presse, and discovered an authentic canadian artist, producing wonderful art and vehiculing genuine values, will definitely share with my entourage). Once again (and surely enough), the Harper gouverment proves itself to be reactionary and succeeds to show canadians (and the world) that his caucus is run with blatant amateurism, aggravated by narrow thinking…
    Nevertheless, I just wanted to show you my support: N’abandonnes surtout pas! On a besoin de gens comme vous!

  • Another Point Of view says:

    As an artist, I wouldn’t expect money from the Harper government if I criticised them (and no, I’m not a pro-Harper, when Harper and art truly is an oxymoron. Even Arcade Fire (a popular canadian roch band) claim publicly that they are against Harper’s government). To me, censorship begins when they don’t let you do your show at all, not because they don’t finance it. It’s great for you the popularity that this affair brings to your art, but really most artists try to make it without any government support, so if the lack of that means that it has to put a stop to your activities, I’m confused. Why does it cost so much to exhibit? That sounds more like the amount of money require to make art, niot exhibit. Maybe you are beyond my league (way up there in the VIP list of important canadian artists).

  • Franke James says:

    Hi there,

    I think you’ve misunderstood… Here are the facts:

    1. I was not receiving any money from the Harper Govt. No funding. The NGO was buying my art outright.

    2. The NGO wanted help from the Canadian Embassy for a media event. Which is exactly what the Canadian Embassy did for Arcade Fire. (So much for being against the Harper Govt.)

    3. Touring a show to 20 cities in Europe is expensive. That covers only part of the cost.

    So in fact, the Government is censoring my art. [Update: November 2011: See Access to Information Documents.]

    If you want to change your comment to reflect the facts let me know.

    ~ Franke

  • Laurent Desbois says:

    «C’est le genre de réaction qu’on attendrait de la Chine, du gouvernement Poutine ou du Kazakhstan, dit-elle. On considère le Canada comme un symbole de la liberté d’expression, un pays ouvert, mais ce n’est pas le cas.»
    Les artistes souverainistes ont été bloqués par les ambassades canadiennes depuis toujours et ceci n’a jamais inquiété les anglo-canadiens outre mesure!!!!

  • Joshua Leuthold says:

    Art is essential, especially art that asks difficult questions. Obviously the Harper Government is scared to answer the questions you have posed honestly otherwise they would not have a problem with the question being asked.

    Perhaps it is time for another visual essay asking the question: When Did Government Become Big Oil’s Slave?

  • Pierre says:

    Hi there,


    What’s happening in Canada is symptomatic
    to what’s happening in the ‘Free world’ since 9-11….

    Don’t you get it!?
    Our democracies are threatened ever since.

  • Mary Ananiadis says:

    “Who was the idiot that approved bullying that woman, Franke James?”
    Shameful behaviour from a select few, who think they have a right to represent Canadian sensibility. It amazes me how sexism and ignorance still think they can crouch behind a schoolyard playstructure, and continue to scheme away, convinced they are hiding in plain view. I guess sexism and ignorance haven’t yet fully realized that the rest of the world lives in an age of information… where everything is eventually exposed in tweets and chats. Who are these idiots? Grow up!

  • Andre Girard says:

    Avec des DINOSAURE comme gouvernement plus rien ne me surprend. Quel tristesse :(

  • Tony Young says:

    Thank you for providing something you may not be aware of… presenting a fine example of a woman leading and forward thinking in her approach to our planet! I am always looking for examples of women who are sensitive yet tough, intelligent, and forthright for my 17 and 19 year old daughters. Young women are impressionable and it is difficult to find women who have integrity and stand firm in what they believe. Our culture- especially in the U.S. has been warped for decades with the myth that there is no stereotyping or gender bias. It is rampant. You, Ms. Franke James, are what this daddy wants his daughters to observe and learn from in terms of developing goals, thought processes, and lifestyles for their future. Glad you are out there!

  • Finiderire says:

    Hi Franke and blog readers,

    I landed here from the website. By the way nice drawings and magnificient garden.
    About this blacklisting, I think it is so unfair for a government to fight one person. I am a little bit more hopeless than you on the environmental question and I am not quite confident in the result from a fight between you and them. That result I won’t know, because there is not much chance I land here again. But money makers control all governments (no, not the voters). That’s called corruption or lobbying (for the pro league). Truth is money makers are, by definition, takers, not givers. That’s why the world has never counted more trillionaires and more poor. They have your money. Now they want your freedom. For the lulz.

    a+, =)

  • Alex says:

    I wish I were surprised, but this is completely in keeping with the Canadian government I know. Just writing to offer my encouragement – whatever Harper and company does to try to silence you, they will only make their case worse. Keep going.

  • Igpy says:

    I don’t understand how more people aren’t up in arms about this. The fact that the Harper Government is silencing artists, scientists, and its own members — that this is, at this point, basically an open policy — and that we are not nationwide having serious debate about how we can allow this from our Prime Minister and claim to be a democracy in the same breath is astonishing. In summary, Conservatives are censoring artists, censoring scientists, refusing to disclose their own activities to the Canadian and international public, and closing libraries; this doesn’t leave me feeling particularly optimistic about the future of our country.

  • AnnT says:

    You don’t have to go to the Middle East or China or North Korea to find a dictator..we have one right here in Canada. PM Harper is a bully and a tyrant who cannot stand to be critisized and has been steadily eroding our Canadian democracy and values since he came into power. He and his goons have destroyed Canada’s reputation as an international peacemaker and a world leader in democracy.
    All he’s interested in is peddling his ‘ethical’ matter what it does to the environment. I can’t believe people voted for him again and gave him a majority government. We’re all going to pay for that dearly over the next 3+ years and the Canada that we know and love will be destroyed.
    The Harper government has no right to stop you from exhibiting your art and blackmailing the sponsor you had in place. This goes directly against our democratic right to free speech. What you are doing is so important to raising awareness about climate change and environmental destruction. I love your art work and I hope that you will not be discouraged from achieving your goal and will continue to do your wonderful work. Go Franke!!

  • Good for you. I’ve added your tweets as a source for my webpaper: keep up the good work.
    History has proven that repressive regimes cannot silence art no matter how hard they try.

  • Thomas J Tassé says:

    I believe BLACKMAIL IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE is it not? As a Canadian citizen I strongly recommend a criminal investigation into the Harper Governments activities regarding this issue. No doubt it would be the tip of the iceberg.
    Time for Canadian PUSHBACK to this Dictatorial Regime. Our economy is not based on big business or the production of oil that destroys our natural habitat. Canadians working in harmony with nature is our strongest natural resource.
    The Harper Government has made a HUGE mistake and it’s time to recall this government and it’s dictator mentality.
    What the Harper Government is doing to Franke James is UNBELIEVABLE, AND I DON’T MIND SAYING AGAIN CRIMINAL!!!

  • Melanie says:

    I’m a fellow artist, and this is totally outrageous!!!! What a friggin a-hole! First of all, I can’t believe everyone who voted for Harper! Grr it makes me so mad. I really hope that you fight the conservatives, because they have no right to silence you just because you spout the truth! Apparently the truth hurts, doesn’t it Harper??? Well TOO BAD!

    I wrote a blog about you Franke, and your blacklisting, and I hope to help spread the word for you.

    Keep fighting, drawing, painting and making your art despite everyone!

    Good luck!

  • Robert says:

    Awesome. Keep up the good work. We need an end to the plutocracy. We need more ridiculing of the corporation’s owned government. We need to bring back democracy.

  • MaryBee says:

    Franke, I am SO glad that I’ve found out about you, your wonderful art, and your punishment for pointing out that the Emperor is naked! With these deadpan, bald faced deceivers, THIS is how you know you’re RIGHT!.. I admire your strength, and I will donate and share!!!

  • Albo says:

    This was to be expected from such a goverment.
    I wish you all the best and even more exhibitions!

    I hope that each artist in his region puts up a small exhibition, using any medium, to show what censorship is, how it is done and who is doing it!
    Having a dictator is not a prerequisite for censorship.
    Having short sighted and stupid politicians is more than enough.

  • Stacy Clark says:

    Franke posseses such a unique combination of scientific knowledge, artistic excellence and wry humor that she’s in a league of her own! Her creative talents have catapulted her into the inner circles of climate science and debate and so it must be her ability to convey the essence of these issues so effectively that has the Prime Minister’s knickers in a twist!

    Great news indeed and now it’s our job to put the pressure on them to stop bullying the smart kid!!

    Bravo, Franke!!

    You’re making a difference!!!

  • Interesting Times says:

    Have you heard of IndieGoGo? Perhaps you could raise funds through them – unlike Kickstarter, you don’t have to be US-based:

    And if you wanted to turn any of your visual essays into short films, Bravo!FACT could be another option:

    Hope this helps. Best of luck in your fight against Ayatollah Harper.

  • Tareq says:

    Wishing you the best of luck all the way from the middle east! Stay strong.

  • Douglas Smith says:

    Hi Franke ~

    Allow me to congratulate you right now on your eventual triumph, since this is a struggle which our Prime Grinch is certain to lose. I will even consider thanking the Top Harpoon himself for drawing my attention to your wonderful work. In his laughable stab at censorship, Big-Eyes-Wide-Shut has honoured a comic tradition in which dour autocrats promote provocative art pro bono by trying in vain to suppress it. What fun we shall have watching His Stiffness try to wriggle out from under this one! It will also afford me great pleasure to draw attention to your work through my own personal channels.

    Your light-hearted touch in illustrating so deadly a topic beings credit to every good Canadian.

  • Richard Roy says:

    What idiot approved of Franke James efforts? Hey, I’m that idiot. I’m quite sure there are lots of us idiots. We’re also known as Canadians, Mr Harper. Remember us idiots who tried to keep a tight reign on you with minority governments, but you kept pushing and pushing to get what you wanted? Well, trust me/us, we didn’t want you to have a majority. If we did, we’d have given you one long ago. Well, we see what your motivation is; power. The power to push your agenda. This is not going to be Canmerica. It’s not going to be Canada Inc, if any of us have anything to do with it. What can we do? Watch. Fat Cat’s that make it’s citizens wallow in oil slick are marked for action. Be prepared.

  • Yuitza Fernandez says:

    Saludos! Llegué aquí a través de Care2 y tengo que resaltar lo contundente de tu mensaje. Por mucho tiempo mi familia ha considerado la idea de mudarse fuera de mi país natal por muchas razones, entre ellas la indiferencia total a lo que pasa a nuestro alrededor. Canadá ha sido el ideal de lo que queremos y creemos y si estás “blacklisted” es porque tienen miedo. Definitivamente es un reto involucrar a la gente en acciones mínimas tales como utilizar transportación pública. Se enciende la chispa por medio de educación y modelaje, y eso es precisamente lo que estás haciendo. Definitivamente pasaré el enlace y espero que el mensaje siga moviéndose. Desde Puerto Rico quedo muy agradecida!

  • Shirley Clark says:

    Thanks for exposing the Harpie in the conservative government. We all know he has always harped on about shutting down all opposition. He won’t shut down you. When has art ever been successfully suppressed? Usually for short periods before the downfall of the government but, I wouldn’t want to harp back on that.
    Behind you all the way.
    Cheers from Newfoundland

  • Dan Turner says:

    Business as usual from the Harper Conservatives. I am very sad and embarrassed to say that this does not surprise me in the least from a government that regularly breaks its own laws or changes them to suit their purposes. Freedom of speech is what the phrase says, not something to be twisted to fit a single dominating agenda. Thank you for not giving in to them.

  • Wroots says:

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    If Mr. Harper were a defender of free speech and free artistic expression (instead of a politically-motivated narrow-minded dictator), he would say, “I disapprove of what you paint, but I will defend to the death your right to paint it.”

    Doesn’t Harper realize that there is nothing quite like his censorship to ensure the promotion of your work and your message? What an idiot.

  • Nita Varma says:

    It is my sincere hope that due to your ability to articulate so well as you have in this article that you consider appearing on every media outlet available to you. Contact fifth estate, W-5, George Strombonopolous, Liberal Party, NDP party, Green Party, the organizations that do indeed protect artists such as yourself, environmentalists such as yourself, CBC radio….everyone. Even consider media outside of Canada.

    Summerworks in Toronto faced a direct hit of censorship that shocked not only the art community but Canadians used to freedom of speech as their constitutional right. There are so many people in healthcare, science (read about the recent shut down of an exciting scientific study regarding salmons in B.C. that shocked the international scientific community use to ethical protocols of open reporting and sharing of discoveries)

    Your example is so well articulated and you have clear acts of how the shut down happened from contact to your corporate sponsorship, to act of the Canadian Embassy acting on Harper’s orders…and most lovingly, your reaction as to what is Canadian friendliness and what is not. If you want because of the well easy to prove acts of Harper…..Canadians lost, confused as these acts are generally minimzed and spun into rhetoric….your experience is an excellent one to be made known.

    Summerworks a fiscally responsible internationally renowned festival received an outpouring of support both financially and other theatre houses performing the “play” that was so offensive….and came out as the house of true integrity. You can show how corporations and government and resulting acts where traditional ethical regard that reflected true Canadian intelligence and stewardship towards the environment is Harper’s government…not the opinion of Canadians. He took an illegal substance (asbestos) and made it available to be exported to other countries without even any warning labels. His answer was that there were ways of handling the substance that are known, so the labels were not necessary.

    This man suppresses the very reports that allow Canadians to have trust in their government being an institution that stands for public health, ethical and moral decision making (the asbestos decision destroyed any right for anyone to consider him as someone that knows right from wrong). He is passing all kinds of legislation that opens the door for unchecked money making practices as is his priority. He is dismantling the very laws that allowed Canada to enjoy a reputation of true democracy that acted in a way were compassion, freedom, humanitarian regard that included the well-being of one And the other as acts of intelligence.

    Your story and its ability to reflect the back room door conversations that show an ignorance in basic human values is really an opportunity to reach more people than you know. You’ll receive support because you are one of many shocked Canadians that are witnessing a change to personal freedoms never experienced before. He even passes legislation to allow him to implement his policies without having to include the judiciary level.

    Your work is the type of thinking and hopes and dreams I hear from today’s youth in Canada. Talk to teenagers and they will openly say their generation is about tackling the environment in peaceful proactive ways….they are doing it on their own without the support of their own government. We are losing our reputation on the international scene as responsible stewards of the earth. I wish you tremendous success and continuance of your enjoyment to write such beautiful inspirations and wish any decision you make that it bring you into the company of Canadians or members internationally that are just as passionate about preventing the silent unchecked or opposed removal of basic rights. Make a shout out!

    Your work is peaceful, proactive and contributing to the type of long term planning that is very well desired and missed in our country. I wish you well and the company of people that support and inspire you. Soar Franke and a shout out for Sandra as well. This could be a lottery ticket to reach more people and garner more support than you know. Even the Leader of the Green Party would be fabulous for a media appearence. Harper may think he can control everything….which makes citizens like you completely powerful to enjoy a re-education in that area for him. You will be silently lifting many people disheartened by the very same points you have expressed.

    Take Care- rooting for you,


  • Neale Aziz says:

    The government has no business to push you around like that. It is disgusting that the government is trying to silence your criticism.

  • Chris says:

    Unfortunately, we already have the government that I don’t want… Harper is the worst thing to happen to this country, and he drives the point even further home every time he takes blatent and quite possibly illegal action against anyone who disagrees with him, as he may be doing in your case. I truly hope that you’re able to find a way to do the tour, as the fact that the government want you to disappear makes it even more important, in my opinion, that you get your message out. Good luck…

  • Paige says:

    You are a strong, powerful female voice for CHANGE! You have the support of many who wish we could do more!

  • it looks like a government full of people who cannot survive the 9/11 crackdown, cracking up over poodo. She should change her name to Franke Mae and hang the Gallery…

    Pollution Tax is Perfect – Even Better is to factor the costs of pollution into the costs of Production and Rewrite Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage so that production values include the costs of pollution (nuisance etc) over the lifetime of the product and tell the PM to “make it better by making it more expensive”… Use your fame to get a bigger funding contract…. but change your name to MAE first…

  • Chris says:

    Sorry, I meant as he’s OBVIOUSLY doing in your case…

  • […] our energy future Ombuds­man says fed­eral agency cooked four con­tracts for favoured work­ers Cana­dian Gov­ern­ment Tries to Silence Franke James Posted: July 31st, 2011 Categories: Articles Tags: anonymous, censorship, civil liberty, […]

  • Carole says:

    I am not surprised. This same government is still allowing baby seals to be clubbed to death. Do we think they would be concerned about the environment if there is no profit in it?

  • Marcus Riedner says:

    This is sick. This is not the Canada I grew up in, or love. This goes beyond the right and left political rhetoric, and speaks far more on how corrupted the entire democratic process in Canada has become. Whether one agrees with the message Franke is trying to share or not, this is a serious sign of how bad our government has become. It also speaks on how apathetic and cynical the Canadian media and population have become. You would expect that the Government of Canada actively seeking to block a Canadian artist from showing her work internationally would be in the news. Instead: Jack Layton has cancer, so lets focus on his personal battle. It shows you how absolutely broken the system of government and media are right now in Canada.

    In that light, I suggest that the citizenry can take control of this situation. We no longer need to rely on CBC or CTV or the government to spread a message and help out an artist going overseas.

    Franke I suggest you jump into crowd funding now so that you can get the finances to pull the show off whether the government wants it or not. You can use online resources to drive your message out, and you can use this stupid cultural blockade as a vehicle to spread your message a lot further then you would be able too otherwise.

    Here are some tools to let you crowd-fund the $75,000.

    If you have a partnership with an American gallery ( or just a friend ) you can use Kickstarter ( they are US only ).

    If you don’t have anyone in the USA to help you out, you can use Indie GoGo :

    You can also set up your own PayPal donation page, but you will have to jump through the PayPal hoops on that ( can take up to 3 months )

    I would also suggest setting up an email-flood-attack situation where you can have people automatically add their name to an email that gets forwarded to the Prime Minister’s office, the MP for a particular postal code, any cabinet and portfolio ministers involved in culture and diplomatic relationships, and anyone at the Canada Council or CBC or where ever else you think is appropriate to send a complaint. You could also look into various ombudsmen offices and oversight bodies in Canada.

    I would also suggest contacting they have a very good Canadian team, and if your situation fits with their current set of campaigns ( I think it would ) you can have one of the largest online protest and petition organizations in your corner, helping you force this into the public eye.

  • Amy says:

    The Harper Government is a disgrace to Canadian democracy! Shame on this. Go Franke James!

  • Brad says:

    Sometimes it takes an idiot with a match to start a fire that heralds much-needed change. Stay strong and know that you are not alone. Good luck.

  • Donna says:

    When a newspaper all the way from Australia says, how badly democracy in Canada is eroded you know, this country is in danger.

    Harper is a dictator, and dictators are paranoid, and they feel they must control absolutely everything. They can’t risk their wrong doings, going to the ears of the public. Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were exactly with the same paranoia. They had their own propaganda media, which Harper is setting up as well. Scientists have to go through Harper, before they can publish their results. They then find their results, severely tampered with.

    When Harper sent his henchmen to Guelph University, to stop the students from voting, that’s a paranoid dictator. Good grief!!! They even tried to steal the ballot boxes. There is no way, that action could be termed, Canadian. Do you recall? Harper was beside himself, frantic and rabid to win the election. He even begged for a majority. If you read: Harper in New York. At the Council of Foreign Relations, Sept 25/2007, you will understand his true evil agenda.

    Harper wants nothing to do with, anything remotely green. Because of his Majority, his head has swollen 3X it’s size. Harper wants to be an energy giant, he wants all of that power and glory. He fully supports the Alberta dirty tar sands, the dirtiest energy on earth. He wants the tar sands peddled, in every country he can persuade. Harper would pollute the entire planet, to achieve his glory.

    Harper totally embarrassed Canada in Copenhagen. He is in contempt of the House. He had a 3X convicted felon working for him. There is still 50 million dollars missing. There were “stolen ballots”? There were robo calls, giving citizens the wrong information, on voting venue’s. The American people, who despise Harper, and dead set against the NAU, said those calls were out of the U.S.

    The American politicians said, Harper is a petty gasbag. He is known as, arrogant, stubborn and refuses to co-operate with anyone.

    At every multi National meetings, Harper always manages, to anger everyone else present. He refused to co-operate at the last meeting too.

    Scientists have found, acid in the ocean, right up to the shores of BC. They were stunned, they thought the acid was way out in the deep. The acid will eat the shells off crustaceans The coral is bleaching white. They say, the Great Barrier, will be dead, within twenty years. Our oceans are dying. If we don’t get rid of fossil fuels, the planet will get rid of us.

  • […] My European show is cancelled, thanks to interference from Canada’s Harper Government — which makes me mad. But I’m not going to let […]

  • […] have been introduced to Franke’s work, as I’ve learned that the Canadian government is currently trying to shut down her art exhibition because she speaks out about the government’s role (or lack thereof) for climate […]

  • […] This post was Twitted by rvanwaarden […]

  • […] than 20 articles have appeared in major media, blogs and environmental websites since news of my blacklisting broke on July 25th. See some of the news […]

  • […] 25th: Canadian Government Tries to Silence Franke James “Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke […]

  • Raisa says:

    It’s tough times get with the program. Ask your supporters here to ….support you financially. Why should the government/taxpayers support you?

  • Franke James says:


    The non-profit was buying my artwork outright. Here’s an important update on this story as of November 8/11:

    The government denied in the media that any funding was ever approved or withdrawn — however Access to Information documents released on October 31st prove that they were not telling the whole truth.

    Funding was approved by GLB, but then ordered cancelled by Jeremy Wallace the Deputy Director of Climate Change (MDC) for Foreign Affairs. In fact, Wallace would not even allow no-cost moral support for me, a Canadian artist.

    Please see my new visual essay posted on November 4/11 which explains this in more detail and features Wallace’s actual emails:

    Banned on the Hill (and in Europe!)


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