Do you think a government has the right to censor an artist’s work if it makes the government look bad?

by Franke James

That’s the question Canadian teachers will soon be asking kids in grade-school.

Scholastic Canada has just published a very timely book aimed at students in grades 6-9. Students are asked to debate this great question, “Do you think a government has the right to censor an artist’s work if it makes the government look bad?”

My key message to students is that I was censored because I promoted policies that were different from the Harper government’s. I do not believe that art has to agree with government policies. If it does, then art is government propaganda. This new book “CENSORSHIP” should be recommended reading for all Members of Parliament and all Canadian bureaucrats.


“In 2013, Franke James launched her exhibition and ad campaign in Ottawa. She raised $12,869 through crowdfunding to pay for the posters. The artwork shows the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa sinking into the Alberta oil sands. Her posters got people talking not only about climate change, but also about government censorship. She took her protest art show to Washington, DC, in October 2013.”

Issues 21: CENSORSHIP is focused on freedom of expression and policing the Internet. My experience of being censored by the Harper government is featured in the “Game Changers” section under the title “In Protest”. I am honoured to be sharing the spread with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.


Amazing what Canada and China have in common these days!

CENSORSHIP: “Why do we have censorship? Most people do not like to be told what they can and cannot read, see, or say. But despite our resistance to censorship, it continues to happen all over the world. This book for Grades 6-9 examines why we have censorship and whether it is ever justified.”


Title: Censorship Resource/Series: Issues 21 | Grade Level: 6-9
Topic: Cross-Curricular, Inquiry | Curriculum Links: Interdisciplinary, Language Arts
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Rubicon for Scholastic


Related Links

James complained to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The Department of Foreign Affairs...recently relented and removed some of the redactions. The new versions of the documents show that much of the official concern over funding James and promoting the European art tour was based on the polarizing politics of climate change. In one, a departmental trade official notes that a Canadian diplomat in Europe would not help promote the show because of the artist's views on the oilsands. Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen

Franke James, Artist and Author Do Not Think about Climate Change: Your views may be a threat to Canada’s security

Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen, March 23, 2015:
“A British Columbia artist and environmental activist accuses government of misusing its censorship powers to hide a politically driven effort to silence her because of her views on climate change and the oilsands…”
New records detail how climate-change views scuttled artist’s grant

Justin McElroy, Global TV News, March 26, 2015
“Due to controversial views on energy issues, particularly on oil sands, the government had been wrongly applying these high level security clauses. It was to black out, redact material which was embarrassing to the government, and which was partisan,” [James] says.

Franke James letter to Suzanne Legault, OIC
“The reason I was censored should make all Canadians angry”

How Undiplomatic!
“Franke James is Your Fault?”

Media Campaign: Crowdfunding Puts Do Not Talk Posters Up in Ottawa, Calgary and Halifax.
Banned on the Hill’s Indiegogo Updates 2013- 2014

Book 2013: Banned on the Hill: a true story about dirty oil and government censorship.

Video 2011: Banned on the Hill (and in Europe!)

Press release: PEN Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) issued a press release, expressing concern over Government interference: “The government of Canada has no right to determine what is an acceptable opinion for an individual citizen, on climate change or any matter of public interest,” said Charlie Foran, President of PEN Canada, “To do so is clearly not in the spirit of the Charter and the long history of freedom of expression in Canada.”

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