Guess Who Came To The Blacklisting Party?

by Franke James

Clockwise Jim Harris, Carola Koitz, Franke James; Melissa Shin, Nicholas Parker, Tonya, Kelly Drennan, Steph, Sara, and Riannon from WWF Canada, Franke with Randy Sa'd, Bill James with Stephen Leahy, Toby Heaps giving speech, Collage of photos at Franke James Blacklisting Party with Franke's 'Who's the Idiot?' poster; photos by James Coburn of CIA, David Stevenson, Bill James, Franke James

Over 100 people from the arts, environmental groups, social justice, law, politics and media came. (And there was lively speculation as to who the ‘Idiot on the Hill’ might be.)

Letter: Dear Franke, I am most impressed and pleased that you have decided to fight back. Unfortunately there will be many more like yourself facing suppression of dissent by the Harper (Canadian?) Government over the next 4 years

Who's the Idiot who blacklisted Franke James?' button inspired by the Canadian official who said 'Who's the idiot who approved of an art show by that woman Franke James?'

The good news in this Blacklisting is the great support I’ve received from people in Canada, the USA, England — and even as far away as Japan. The letter above came in the mail — with a cheque enclosed! The letter writer, Peter, makes a great point about the challenge we face in Canada: I am just one of many who are facing “suppression of dissent” by the Harper Government.
My writing friend, Richard Littlemore, jokingly calls me a “cockroach” that the government wants to stomp on. I can laugh at being called a tenacious pest — but the idea that others would look at my “Blacklisting” and worry that they might be attacked for speaking out makes me furious. licensed getty image What can we do to ensure everyone in Canada feels they have the right to speak up? Even if it means disagreeing with our Dear Prime Minister.
Before you jump into reading what the guests thought of the Blacklisting Party (below), let me take a moment to thank three people who were instrumental in its success.
Jim Harris, author, speaker (Jim is also a former leader of the Green Party of Canada) is a powerhouse. He helped organize everything — inviting guests, finding volunteers to help serve food and drinks, and attracting our main sponsor Steam Whistle (woohoo!). Jim also did a fabulous job that evening fundraising on my behalf. And getting many laughs with his speech about artists, kittens and Conservatives!
Secondly I want to give hearty thanks to Toby Heaps, Editor-in-Chief at Corporate Knights Magazine, for speaking so eloquently and passionately about democracy, free speech and why my situation should be of concern to all Canadians. And for being there for me right from the very beginning when I first discovered I was blacklisted!
Thirdly, thanks to my husband Bill James, who let me take over the house — and hang my art e v e r y w h e r e. And whose support and advice on this new “challenge” has given me great strength (just like the many other challenges we’ve tackled together! Check out the blistered hands.).

And Guess What They Said…

Neighbour views Franke James' canvas about Polluters Paying, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“So many complain, mostly to each other so that nothing gets heard, or done. It was great to party with people who take action, with Franke leading the charge against exclusion.” ~ Rosalind Ross, Neighbour

photo by Franke James

“That the current government wishes to silence you is an affront to most fair-minded Canadians. Whenever, I wear the ‘Idiot button’, I invariably get the same reaction: ‘Who are these people who gave this government a majority?'” Tom Sagar

Melissa Shin and Nicholas Parker, photo by James Coburn Central Image Agency

“Back in 1950, President Truman wrote, “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.” I grew up secure in the idea I lived in such a country. The blacklisting of Franke James and other so-called dissenters shook this belief. But attending Franke’s party reminded me of the power of courage, conviction, and citizen action. Over 100 people came to celebrate and support Franke — and to let the Prime Minister know we will not go quietly into the night.” Melissa Shin

blacklisting party with friends from WWF Canada, photo by Franke JamesSteph from WWF Canada at blacklisting party reads Franke James book, photo by James Coburn Central Image AgencyAdriana Mugnatto-Hamu, Green Party of Canada, with artist/designer Bill James, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency, Erich Jacoby-Hawkins photo by Franke James;

“Having met the friendly and open Franke and seen her clever and colourful work up close, I can scarcely believe that simply for exercising her democratic rights of political expression and free speech, for questioning Harper’s tar sands promotion, she is branded as “speaking against the Canadian government.” James is neither an insurgent nor a rebel inciting violence – she is merely a thought-provoking artist.”
~ Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, Shadow Cabinet, Green Party of Canada

Kelly Drennan photo by David Stevenson

“I really enjoyed your Blacklisting Party and was so thrilled to see a group of people coming together in solidarity to support you and freedom of speech in general. The vibe at the party was fun, but serious at the same time. This is a serious issue that we cannot and should not ignore. Kudos to Franke for making some noise and for wanting to find out Who The Idiot Was that Blacklisted her!!” ~ Kelly Drennan, Founder, Fashion Takes Action

Ben McCammon and Chris Chopik, photo by James Coburn

“It was great to see so many courageous people coming out to the Blacklisting Party to support Franke, her environmental message, and her right to free speech.”
~ Chris Chopik, Evolution Green

Timothy in gallery room, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“It was my first (so far) invitation to a blacklisting party. I thought it was a great opportunity to promote the cause and showcase your art, your passion and your position on the issue. It also made it very clear (at least in my mind) that the reaction (perhaps ‘overreaction’) on the part of the Government of Canada to actually ‘blacklist’ you and your work was indeed misdirected and a ‘silly’ reaction/decision as it really provided you with a new and more public platform from which to deliver your message. ~ Timothy

Doug Smith, photo by David Stevenson

“Allow me to congratulate you… 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 brings credit to every good Canadian.” ~ Douglas Smith

Does Free Speech really matter in Canada?

In a strange twist of fate, James Coburn, the photographer I’d hired from the CIA showed up with a large Amnesty International petition asking if I could have guests sign it at the Blacklisting Party. At first I wondered how my blacklisting problem and a film director’s dilemma in Iran could be connected…

Doug signs AI petition for Jafar, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

But I quickly learned… Jafar Panahi is an internationally celebrated film director convicted of “propaganda against the state” for having exercised his right to peaceful freedom of expression through his film-making and political activism. He has been sentenced to 6 years in prison, with a 20-year ban on all his artistic activities.

The tragedy of Panahi’s plight is shocking. He’s a storyteller for social justice. If I lived in Iran, that could be me. It certainly puts my blacklisting into perspective. (You can sign the Amnesty petition here.)

Governments all over the world are afraid of the power of art. Because artists can infiltrate the national psyche and change beliefs. Like Bob Dylan’s lyrics — “She’s an artist…. she can take the dark out the nighttime and paint the daytime black.” — Art can wake people up and motivate them to take action. A power that is beyond political control.

Speaking Up for Free Speech

Toby Heaps, Corporate Knights Magazine, speaks at the blacklisting party; photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“Franke James has a wonderful way of taking important numbers that give insight to our species’ impact on the planet and boiling them down to an image that resonates powerfully with people from the ages of 5 to 95. The Government of Canada’s apparent censoring of her work is a high mark of praise, indicating the power of her message and the Government’s relative insecurity, which stems from their increasingly tenuous anti-science positions.

As John F. Kennedy, once said: “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” ~ Toby Heaps

crowd listening to speeches at Franke James Blacklisting Party; photo by James Coburn of CIA

Jim Harris, author of “Blindsided” and former Leader of the Green Party of Canada, spoke about an absurd world…

Jim Harris gave a speech and helped fundraise at Franke James Blacklisting Party; main photo by David Stevenson, Inset photo by James Coburn of CIA

“It used to be that the Canadian Government supported Canadian artists here and abroad. Today it’s clear that the Harper Government will only support Conservative artists.

“How many Conservative artists do you know? – Artists who create gentle, loving images of Stephen Harper in a sweater holding kittens? We need artists to show the reality of the Tar Sands on our future – as Franke James does.

“It’s unacceptable that the Canadian Government no longer supports Canadian artists – and now only support Conservative ones.” ~ Jim Harris, Strategic Advantage

Franke James giving a speech her Blacklisting Party; photo by James Coburn of CIA

“I always thought I lived in a free country where you were allowed — and encouraged — to speak your mind. This blacklisting is really shocking, not just for me, but for all Canadians who think differently than our current Prime Minister. In a true democracy multiple points of view are allowed. The Harper Government’s insistence on controlling the message — to the point where artists and scientists are silenced and blacklisted is a serious infringement on our rights in a so-called democratic country. That’s why I’m taking my art to the streets of Ottawa. I want to send a big, loud message to the Prime Minister: Stop Blacklisting Artists and Scientists!”
Franke James, author & artist, Bothered By My Green Conscience

Meghan Telpner photo by David Stevenson

“I have a soft spot for petite people who make a big noise and big change in this world. Perhaps because I too strive to do the same…

I have never met so many wonderfully intelligent, conscious, aware, and forward thinking individuals in a single evening. Spending time with like-minded people is inspiring unto itself — that we came together over the banning of ideas, values and intentions that we all share, made it all the more profound.

What I liked most of all though, was meeting Franke in person. I don’t know if it’s that she welcomed us into her home, that she was styling an awesome ensemble, that all the food served was organic, that the Canadian government wants to take this force down, that she turned her driveway into a garden, or the nature in which she communicates her message, but every time I look at her art work, I kind of want to give her a hug and say “You done good Franke. You done good!” ~ Meghan Telpner

Stan holds up 5 books he purchased, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“Thank you Franke for trying to wake up Canadians that this Prime Minister is against you — if you’re not with him! Your art speaks to truth –– Canada’s growing democracy deficit.” ~ Stan Kozak

google hangout blacklisting party with friends from San Francisco, photo by Franke James

“I was blown away by your art, thoroughly impressed by your initiatives to make the utmost of this bizarre situation, and thrilled to meet all your supporters and friends. Somehow I am quite sure that “the idiot” on the hill had not the slightest idea what he was in for.” Robert Mout

Stan Kozak in the old garage, now serving as a gallery, photo by James Coburn, Central Image AgencyRandy S'ad with Franke James in the old garage, now serving as a gallery, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“It seems almost automatic that people respond to an injustice by gathering the support and validation of others. Where most will rally allies by demonizing their opponent and creating a divisive hatred between sides, the blacklisting party was an inspiring example of the difference a positive and forward looking reaction can make.

Not every idea shared was wrapped in a rainbow but overall the party was an uplifting, fun-filled and inspiring experience that brought light to the brilliant contributions of Franke James; potentially a heck of a lot more than if her opportunity not been inexplicably squashed in the first place.” ~ Randy Sa’d, Strategic Development, Harbourfront Centre

Franke James' Social Change giclee, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“Seeing Franke’s artwork in large size on display made me realize how very important her messages are. I can’t wait for her art billboard in Ottawa! Hopefully, her visual essays will reach an even larger audience due to the blacklisting publicity. I’ll be following Franke’s story with much anticipation!” ~ Christa Gampp

Jim Harris and Carola in front of canvas from 'What can one person do?' by Franke James at her home in Toronto, photo by Franke James

“Great party! It was wonderful to meet so many like minded people! That’s where I get my energy to keep working for change. I am so proud to be part of the ‘Blacklisted’ support group – if one can call it that? I really would like to help out more. If there is anything I can do please let me know.” ~ Carola Koitz

Franke hugs a guest, photo by James Coburn, Central Image Agency

“Leave it to an artist to take the metaphorical batch of lemons and turn it into a deliciously refreshing pitcher of lemonade. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Ever since reading Franke’s “Paradise Unpaved” visual essay, I knew she was full of spunk! Her Blacklisting Party simply reaffirmed her incredible resolve to get her message heard regardless of the obstacles put in her path.

Whatever one may think of the progress of international climate change negotiations, the enthusiasm of the people who came out to support Franke demonstrated that at the individual and community level there continues to be intelligent and inspirational work being done to create more sustainable living options for Canadians. My goal in attending was to ensure Franke knows that her work and advocacy is appreciated regardless of what any bureaucrats may have decided.” ~ Rob Wakulat

Thanks to everyone who came to my Blacklisting Party and purchased artwork, books, posters and buttons! We raised over $2600 at the Blacklisting party. Next stop: Ottawa!

Books, posters, buttons for sale at Franke James  Blacklisting event

Thanks to our sponsors:

Steam whistle beer photo by Franke James

sponsors: Steam Whistle, Front Door Organics, Frog Pond Farm

Fruit tray and Front Door Organics cheese photo by Franke James
Steam Whistle Beer | Front Door Organics | Frog Pond Farm Wines


“Guess Who Came To The Blacklisting Party?” copyright 2011 Franke James
Photography by James Coburn, Central Image Agency, with the following exceptions: D. Stevenson: photos of Jim Harris, Kelly Drennan, Douglas Smith; Franke James: photos of Tom and Jane Sagar, the WWF team, Google hangout, Jim and Carola, Erich the Green, Steam Whistle, Food.

Related Blacklisting Posts by Franke James:

September 10th: Blacklisted by Harper? Get out the Noise-Makers!
“Yes, because the best way to fight shadowy blacklisting is to get noisy, have fun, and tell lots of people. So, to help spread the word, I’m hosting a Blacklisting Party.” 

August 17th: Blacklisting Makes News in Ottawa (And beyond)
“More 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 articles.”

August 2nd: Silenced in Europe, Franke Gets Loud in Ottawa!
“My European show is cancelled, thanks to interference from Canada’s Harper Govt — which makes me mad. But I’m not going to let them silence me… I’ve decided some grassroots, guerilla tactics are in order…”

July 25th: Canadian Government Tries to Silence Franke James
“Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke James?”

How do you get in the right headspace for hosting a Blacklisting Party?

Well, I went to a used book shop and lucked into buying a copy of George Orwell’s political satire NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR — the first (Canadian) edition — for a mere fifteen bucks. Orwell’s futuristic vision of how governments would rewrite history — and control messaging — is now eerily true. I wonder — if he were here today, what advice would he have for me?
1984 by George Orwell, photo by Franke James
But Orwell was so politically savvy, cloaking his disdain for the powers-that-be in satire, that he’d probably lambast me by saying, “Foolish woman – what were you thinking by openly criticizing your government? Don’t you know Big Brother hates that – and will stop at nothing to shut you down?”

89 Responses: 15 Comments and 74 Tweets

  • @EdenFisher says:


    @EdenFisher .@frankejames great thing is they are all such nice people, too far away for us but our thoughts are with you. The ‘nice’ people will win.

  • @WindSector says:


    @WindSector .@frankejames Congratulations—well done, Franke!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Franke,

    The party was really inspiring. Thank you. As cowardly as it sounds, I’m a tad reluctant to add my two cents to the brilliantly crafted post, at least not before my Canadian citizenship comes through. It’s a sad world we live in…

    If I were to write something, I’d probably reference McLuhan: “An administrator in a bureaucratic world is a man who can feel big by merging his non-entity in an abstraction. A real person in touch with real things inspires terror in him.”

    Thanks for understanding. Hope to connect again soon.

    (name withheld to protect the innocent)

  • Jon-Erik says:


    @lapplando wish I could have been there! What a milestone RT @frankejames: Guess Who Came To The Blacklisting Party? #cdnpoli

  • Franke – all I can say is wow. the event was a huge success! Just love seeing your visual messages so boldly displayed speaking ever so Franke like. Look at your home full of people fueling support for you!!

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your great comment! It was a huge event — literally — I wasn’t sure we could fit 100 people in our house — but the doors were open at the front and back and somehow it all worked out.

    It was so fabulous to have so many people’s support. I need every bit of it. This blacklisting is a big challenge and the party gives me more courage.


  • Carola Koitz says:


    I finally see it on a big screen! It’s stunning..!!!

    I am repeating myself but once again I have to say I am so lucky to have been part of it. It was an amazing event.
    I hope it becomes a ‘Blacklisted movement’ in support of free speech and political expression. Count me in:-)

  • […] me you know who I am talking about! Franke is the force behind the most splendourific visual essays my eco loving self have ever set eye…. I wrote about her back in the Spring but do you know what happened since then? She was blacklisted […]

  • […] 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 […]

  • Tina says:

    I am really not sure that this is the most effective way to influence the kind of change you are looking for. Firstly, there is a current illusion that the government is responsible for everything from controlling who does what business, like oil sands, to paying for food of children in schools. From the perspective of the government, if someone was speaking against me and I had to decide whether to fund them or not, I expect I wouldn’t. Funding is generosity. It is a gift. It is not an obligation. I truly don’t know if the government is in favor of the oil sands project, but I think it is a tricky thing for them to impose their will on this enterprise. I wish we could stop this reckless pollution perpetuated by the mining of the oil sands. So, is putting pressure on our government to intervene the way to go? Why not go to the source, the companies who are responsible? You want the government to take responsibility for enabling you to spread a message that will in turn put the responsibility on them and you don’t see that this would be at a cost to the government and the tax payer…because it is we who ultimately pay. So the government should impose more regulations to stop these people, and yet you object when they stop you? If freedom of speech then why not freedom of business? Something isn’t lining up here.

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your comment. The funding is a non-issue. In fact it’s a red herring that distracts from what really happened. The NGO applied for a small grant and was turned down. No problem. (I’ve applied for arts grants and been turned down too. You win some. You lose some.)

    Being rejected for a grant is not the issue.

    The blacklisting can best be understood this way: The government interfered by warning the NGO not to exhibit my art. The Canadian Embassy Cultural officer said (in the Toronto Star), “Don’t you know this lady speaks against the Canadian Government?”

    Firstly, I do not speak against the Canadian Government, but I do speak against Harper’s polluting policies. We should have stronger laws that force corporations (like ESSO) to pay for the true cost of polluting our air and water — including the damage to the communities that surround the Tar Sands – that’s the only way we’ll get them to clean up their act. One day I believe we’ll see massive class action suits brought against these companies for the terrible damage they are causing to the health of First Nations around the tarsands — and to everyone’s air and water.

    Secondly, what the hell is the Government doing warning anyone not to exhibit my art? That’s not fair and it’s not what most Canadians want from their government.

    Thirdly, Free Speech: The reason this is a free speech issue is that even if you — and the Harper Govt. — don’t agree with my views on carbon taxes, I should not be silenced or blacklisted. A democracy is all about allowing dissenting voices. It’s by allowing differences of opinion that we can come up with new solutions and better ways of doing things that will benefit everyone in our society.



    BTW, the artshow was fully financed with corporate money and a private backer who had 40 years in the gallery business — NO taxpayer dollars were to be used. (I even contacted the Embassies myself to ask if I could RENT space at my own expense, as I am a Canadian citizen and Canadian business-owner. I could not even get a handshake from them.)

  • Tina says:

    I agree that we need to “come up with new solutions and better ways of doing things that will benefit everyone in our society.” I am just not convinced that creating laws that “force corporations (like ESSO) to pay for polluting our air and water” is the way to go. To me it seems that, in a sense “fining” them, will just allow them to continue their operations. If they get fined (pay for polluting) and don’t pay, they have to be taken to court, at government (taxpayer) expense. In the food services industry we have a standard of operation and if businesses fall below it they are forced to shut down. This is for the safety of the consumer. Restaurants don’t “pay” for having inferior, health-threatening foods. They are required to keep up to standard.

  • Franke James says:


    I recently spoke with an Esso executive. He said that until the Government brings in tougher regulations, Esso won’t change. I agree. We need tougher environmental laws that force companies to change their polluting ways. Currently they are not (overly) worried as the cost of polluting our air and water are “externalities”.

    You may enjoy Tzeporah Berman’s new book “This Crazy Time”. In it she calls for tougher laws to change things on a global scale. She’s also a remarkable woman with an amazing life story.


  • […] wearing my “Who’s the idiot who blacklisted Franke James?” button. See my Blacklisting Party for the matching […]

  • […] I was joined by Toby Heaps, Editor-in-Chief of Corporate Knights Magazine. Toby also spoke at my Blacklisting Party in September so he was up-to-speed on all the developments.  Toby commented, “It seems like […]

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