“The reason I was censored should make all Canadians angry”
by Franke James
In April 2013, I wrote to Suzanne Legault, the Head of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada telling her, “The reason I was censored should make all Canadians angry — because it threatens the very essence of democracy: our right to speak up and disagree with our elected government.”
I was frustrated after two years of trying to get the redactions removed from the access to information documents I’d received from the Department of Foreign Affairs concerning my cancelled art show in 2011.
Within one week of receiving my letter (below), the OIC had started an investigation. It required an OIC investigator from their eight person team to investigate the high-level redactions which had been approved by the Head of a Government Institution.
In mid-February 2015, I received the first batch of “un-redacted” documents from DFAIT. The OIC has succeeded in getting some redactions removed because DFAIT had redacted text using high-level clauses which were either incorrect or not applicable. The OIC investigation is still ongoing.
April 4, 2013
Suzanne Legault, The Information Commissioner of Canada
Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
Place de Ville, Tower B
112 Kent Street, 7th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Re: 3211-01018 and 3212-00169
Dear Ms. Legault,
I am very pleased to see that you are investigating the complaint regarding the muzzling of Federal scientists which was submitted by the University of Victoria Law Clinic and Democracy Watch.
My case is related to the government’s muzzling of free speech. However I am not a federal employee. I am a Canadian citizen, an independent artist and environmental author, whose right to freedom of expression has been interfered with by the Federal Government.
I am writing to request that you investigate my complaints which were submitted in December 2011 and April 2012.
My story has been in the news many times since 2011, appearing in the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun, La Presse, the Vancouver Observer, and discussed on CBC radio’s The Current, among others. Just recently my dilemma was featured in the Freedom to Read 2013 magazine. I was honoured that Charles Montpetit, the freedom of expression co-ordinator at UNEQ, chose to shine a bright light on my case. Please see the article…
“Return of the Blacklist” by Charles Montpetit (pages 18-19), Freedom to Read 2013.
The reason I was censored should make all Canadians angry — because it threatens the very essence of democracy: our right to speak up and disagree with our elected government.
Since August 2011, I have obtained over 2,000 pages of government documents through access to information laws. Many pages are redacted for reasons of “international security” and conversations with a Minister, but some reveal the startling truth as to why they interfered behind-the-scenes. In an internal government email, Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, government spokesperson at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada explains, “the artist’s work dealt mostly with climate change, and was advocating a message that was contrary to the government’s policies on the subject.” (ATIP document: A-2012-02002_2012)
I am deeply concerned and frustrated by the delays on my complaints. As you know, “access delayed is access denied” and unfortunately, as the time drags on, my options on recourse become more and more limited. I face the loss of my economic rights and legal remedies.
I have spoken with Eric Murphy several times as to the delays. His explanation was that the redactions under section 15(1) and 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b), require a specialized investigator.
My story will be in the news again very soon. I am publishing a new book which includes seven of my environmental essays from 2008-2013. It will also include a new essay on freedom of speech called, “Franke James is your fault?”
That perplexing title comes from an email letter written by the Canadian Embassy Trade Commissioner, Thomas Marr [see below]. As you can imagine, reading that subject line and seeing the heavily redacted letter was a shock to me — and is still distressing. I think the average Canadian would agree that Mr. Marr’s letter is disturbing. And yet it is only one example of how the Federal government secretly interfered in my art show in Europe — causing its cancellation and the loss of a major business opportunity for me. I hope that you agree that my case is urgent and should be investigated now.
Read the full story: “Franke James is your fault?”.
Chapter excerpted from Banned on the Hill by Franke James
Do Not Think about Climate Change: Your views may be a threat to Canada’s security
“What can one person do?” (pdf) proposed European art show in 2011, curated by Nektarina Non Profit.
Nektarina Proposal to Canadian Embassy in Croatia. Source – ATIP_A201100802
Book 2013: Banned on the Hill: a true story about dirty oil and government censorship.
Video 2011: Banned on the Hill (and in Europe!)
Art show 2011: Victory! Banned on the Hill Opening in Ottawa
Media Campaign: Crowdfunding Puts Do Not Talk Posters Up in Ottawa, Calgary and Halifax. Banned on the Hill’s Indiegogo Updates 2013- 2014
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