Canada’s neocon mouthpiece cannot silence humourous tarsands critics
What is Harper afraid of? is one of the works of Canadian artist Franke James, who creates visual essays about social and environmental issues. Photograph: Franke James Canada, under the government of Stephen Harper, has exhibited little patience for dissent. The government has muzzled government scientists, insulted Nasa climate experts, and dismissed environmental protesters as dangerous radicals. But there is apparently one woman whom the government can’t shut up: the Toronto environmental writer, illustrator and activist Franke James, who turned the efforts to silence her into material for a new book. Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship, released this week, shows how Canadian bureaucrats tried to silence James because her views on climate change clashed with the Harper government’s push to develop Alberta’s tar sands. The story is told through visual essays as well as official emails obtained by James, in which government bureaucrats discuss the troublesome artist and her work. It also relies heavily on humour – some of it provided inadvertently by the government bureaucrats discussing what to do about James. The artist said she received some 2,172 pages of official memos in which her name appeared. The events go back to the summer of 2011 when Canadian officials intervened to try to shut down a show of James’s work in Croatia hosted by a local environmental group. James is not a household name in Canada, but she had apparently turned up on the government’s radar for a series of visuals poking fun at Harper and demanding that polluters be held accountable for the tar sands.