A Canadian artist takes on the Harper government

A Toronto area artist is standing up to her bully.

Her bully, she claims, is the Harper government.

Many will recall the story of Franke James, an environmental advocate who, over the years, has created provocative visual essays challenging the Canadian government over its inaction on climate change.

 

Earlier this year, James' artwork garnered the attention of a Croatia-based environmental group called Nektarina Non Profit who wanted to feature 20 of her original art pieces as part of a European tour.

In July, however, Nektarina told the Toronto Star that a $5,000 tour grant they were slated to receive from the Canadian embassy in Croatia was pulled after Ottawa notified the embassy of James' criticisms of the Harper government.

Moreover, James' alleges the Conservatives badmouthed her to a corporate sponsor who yanked its sponsorship funds to avoid "further damage" to their company.

While Ottawa has denied any interference, James has since obtained documents under the Access to Information act that appear to show Canadian officials did block the Embassy's grant.

"Government emails reveal that Canada's climate change office was secretly working to kill my support," James said in a visual essay posted on her website.

"A black mark that scared away  venues and sponsors and finally, even (Nektarina)."

Tim Harper wrote a column in Sunday's Toronto Star chronicling James' recent efforts to fight against what he calls the Harper government's "pettiness."

He says James raised money to display her environmental art work on bus shelters throughout Ottawa ensuring Canadian officials would take notice.

She even garnered the attention of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May who has taken up James' cause in the House of Commons.

May presented a series of questions on an order paper last week, giving the Conservatives 45 days to respond to this: "With regard to the Right to Freedom of Speech enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, on what legal basis did DFAIT ground its decision to withdraw support and revoke Ms. James' allotted funding?"

James has also taken her story to the US media and last weekend was the subject of a New York Times environmental blog.

What's next for James?

In addition to continuing her own fight,  she is encouraging other Canadians to follow her lead.

"I think more people who are blacklisted and bullied by the Harper government need to speak up — and loudly," she said, according to the Toronto Star.

"It's only by shining a bright light on their bullying that we can make them change."