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Is The Kremlin Now In Charge? Harper Government Silencing Canadian Artists And Scientists

2011/07/27

The Harper Government is sending out a clear message at home and abroad that if your politics are not correct your art shouldn’t be shown, and if your findings are inconvenient your science doesn’t matter.

Art by Franke James

A recent Vancouver Sun discussed the silencing of Fisheries Department scientist Kristi Miller. Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island whose breakthrough research into the deaths of West Coast salmon was published in the top scientific journal Science last year. The study suggests the possibility of a mysterious virus killing huge numbers of Fraser River salmon before they reach their spawning grounds. According to The Sun:

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

...Miller is still not allowed to speak publicly about her discovery, and the Privy Council Office and Fisheries Department defend the way she has been silenced.

But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.

“There is no question in my mind it’s muzzling,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”

In a similar chilling manner, the Harper Government has recently lead a campaign to silence award-winning artist and author Franke James. James was asked by an international non-profit, Nektarina Nonprofit, which educates, connects and inspires people to care about their communities and their environment, to mount a series of art exhibitions in Europe. As Nektarina’s website states:

The uniqueness of her artwork is in combining science, art and storytelling, creating powerful and thought-provoking visual essays. Franke does not preach, she tells a story, educates and explains, leaving it to the viewers to make their own choices and decisions.

However, 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. As Franke explains:

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.

But apparently, Franke has 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 and the David Suzuki Foundation. Nektarina Non-Profit has issued this statement about the concerted effort the Harper Government, through its Canadian embassies, have been making to shut down James’ art exhibit:

When Nektarina decided to present Franke’s artwork in a series  of exhibitions in Europe and Central Asia, we felt confident of the support of Canada – Franke’s homeland.  Regrettably, the Canadian Government has since declined support for the project, verbally explaining that “She (Franke James) speaks against the Canadian Government”. Nektarina Non Profit was deeply surprised and disappointed by the reaction of official Canada, yet we decided to carry on with the project.Nektarina Non Profit believes that it is the right of every person – artists and intellectuals in particular – to freely express their opinion and to be able to pose the question about their government’s accountability on specific decisions.  This is all the more important when such governmental decisions potentially impact the welfare of a large demographic, natural resources or both.

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 home land 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 peace keeper 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.  We will continue to try to reach out to Canadian society and we feel sure that the positions taken do not reflect the attitudes of Canadian society as a whole and we are confident that we have many friends in the country.

To help make Franke’s powerful “What Can One Person Do?” exhibit a reality, please consider donating $5 or more to Nektarina Non-Profit (the corporate sponsor cancelled after pressure from the Harper Government). Click here to donate on-line. And here’s a challenge from me –  I’ll match every $5 that one of you, my blog readers, donates (you let me know in the comment section or by email at 350orbust@gmail.com).  Let’s see what we can do!

To read more about the anti-democratic, bullying actions of the Harper Government, as well as more ideas for taking action, go to Franke James’ blog.

More links:

Nektarina Non-Profit

My Green Conscience

Franke James Needs YOUR Support

Feds Silence scientist over West Coast Salmon Study

Another Canadian Muzzled By Harper


13 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/07/27 9:04 pm

    Christine — You always write such smart posts! Thanks for connecting the dots and seeing the relationship between the Fishy Politics of the Scientist, and my Climate Change Art show “What can one person do?” being censored.

    I really appreciate your call to action for donations for Nektarina (and your generous offer to match donations!).

    It’s infuriating that the Harper Government can destroy an opportunity like this to educate youth about climate change. Dirty oil is making for dirty politics and it’s soiling Canada’s reputation – destroying the Canada we know and love.

  2. Christine permalink*
    2011/07/27 9:51 pm

    Thanks for the visit, Franke, and the kind words. The best I can hope for out of this very disappointing and disturbing situation is that you get a whole lot more press out of it than you would have without the Harper govt’s nasty interference, and it raises your profile nationally and internationally. You deserve the recognition for the great work you do – and certainly DON’T deserve to be blacklisted!

  3. Christine permalink*
    2011/07/27 9:55 pm

    Now I just need people to start taking me up on my donation challenge – C’mon folks!

  4. 2011/07/28 12:18 am

    Hello, thank you for this post and challenge. I’ve just taken you up on it & donated $5.
    I admire Franke’s talent, courage and integrity & want to support her efforts to education youth about climate change.

    (Please let me know if you’d like me to forward the e-receipt, which I’ve just received from Paypal. I’m more than happy to do so.)

  5. 2011/07/28 2:15 pm

    I’m happy to support Franke –and you, too. Thank you for the kinds words about my blog!
    I’m very inspired by yours, too.

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/07/28 8:15 pm

      We Canadians need to stick together – and I don’t mean in the tar sands!

  6. 2011/08/06 7:53 am

    Christine,

    An update on my art show in Europe and an important request…

    1. The touring show has been cancelled. (see post below)
    2. I’m switching to grassroots, guerilla-marketing tactics
    3. My art is now going to Ottawa — that is if I can get enough crowdfunding to finance a billboard and two bus shelters. Currently we’re 1/4 of the way there.
    4. See my “news” page for who is writing about it.

    Here’s my latest post:
    Silenced in Europe, Franke Gets Loud in Ottawa!
    http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=6813

    Thanks for your support and the fabulous job you do writing about climate change and social activism.

    Franke

  7. Christine permalink*
    2011/08/06 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the update, Franke, and the link. I will definitely keep following this story!

  8. 2011/10/17 12:33 pm

    Climatologists who denounce the dogmatization of AGW have been suffering for years, even decades, from the kind of censorship we call “blacklisting”. Calls for banishing dissident climatologists and design scientists come back to roost? Where are the denunciations over the firing of peer review science publications editors who were guilty of following the peer review rules, only to be reprimanded based on the content?

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/10/18 7:12 am

      Sadly, Alan, for somebody who’s blog includes the words “truth” and “logic” there is very little evidence of that in your comment. When NASA, the NOAA, Environment Canada, and every National Academy of Science on the globe supports the science of human-caused global warming and the resulting changes in climate that’s enough evidence for logical people (that, along with the melting glaciers and the increasingly extreme and unusual weather around the globe, including in North America).

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