Franke James at The Dock, speaking at the opening of the art exhibition, The Real Poop on Social Change.
Franke James: Oh, thank you. Wow, this is so amazing. And thank you, Tom and Carol. Your comments have just been so gratifying and heartwarming. And this is just, it's amazing to have all of you here, just amazing. And so, I think in conversation with, someone today, I was talking about what I've learned, as a result of, being blacklisted. And I have to think back, to say 2010, before all of this happened. I really did not appreciate the importance of free expression. I didn't worry about censorship. I just thought that I could speak up, right?
I never realized how much at risk we are. And how important free expression is in a democracy. But being told to shut up about such an important issue, really brought it home. And so, I'm not going to thank Stephen Harper for blacklisting me, however, (laughs) I have learned an awful lot.Now I know how to file an access to information request. And how to drill down into all those people and who they are.
And so, I've had a certain amount of fun in going through all of this. And it's such a kick to realize that the bureaucrats thought that they could shut me up by preventing my work from being shown on walls in Europe. And going "No, I'm sorry. I'm going to take that work which is digital, and we're going to put it right in your face in Ottawa, right around the corner from the Parliament buildings. And we're going to show people, and we're going to get people talking." Because so many Canadians have their head buried in the tar sands about the issue of climate change. They are not getting the facts about climate change. They don't understand the risk.And that's why it's important to have messengers like me. And it's also important ...
So, one of the benefits to me being an independent artist is that Stephen Harper can't call up the media organization and get me fired, right? And, I've heard from people who work for various organizations, whether it's charities, or it's Environment Canada saying "You know, we really appreciate what you're doing. Go for it! And get out there on the front lines, this is great!" Because they're not able to, because their jobs are at risk. Their pensions are at risk, and so we need people like me, who are, (laughs) foolishly, being, okay with being pushed out onto the front of the stage. So I just thought... wrote a few thoughts.
Back in, let me see, in 2008, I wrote to Harper. I wrote a "Dear Prime Minister" letter, asking for a carbon tax. And I never thought that they would take notice. Never, okay? So I was wrong. I underestimated the impact that any citizen can have. And each of us, we need to speak up. We need to use our voice. And it is scary. And the thing is that you, you have this little voice in your head going "Oh, I can't make any difference, it's not going to make a difference," but you actually do. When you are brave enough to get out there and put your, your statement out there that you want a carbon tax and you're opposed to something, the people in your circle go "Oh, she's pretty serious. I didn't realize that, okay!" And, and it creates a ripple effect. Like a stone being thrown into a pond. I mean that's how I started. I just wrote, my goodness that was 2008, so three years later, I find out that the government actually was paying attention. And when I got all the access to information documents, I saw that they actually saved my communications, just like they're saving any of yours! (laughing)
And telling people what you really think, you know, it does have repercussions. (laughing) You might get blacklisted like me. Or you may just make people uncomfortable. I know that lots of people are afraid, about standing out from the crowd, but we really need people to stand out now. It's so important, we can't be like sheep just going along. We have to say, "Hey! You know, We need to take action on climate change." And we don't need to just say it, we have to do it. We have to show that we're taking action. And people are so skeptical. "Oh, she talks a good thing," but you've got to be able to put your words into action. And so, find something really outstanding that you can do. So, what my husband and I chose to do is sell our car, our SUV, in 2007. And that was great, because it actually took people aback. They went, "Wow, she's really serious!"
And you don't have to go out and sell your car, but if you can think of some really gargantuan thing that you can do in your life that would go, "Oh, she really or he really is serious about tackling carbon emissions." And maybe it's putting solar panels on your ... I don't know what it is. Maybe it's going vegetarian. I don't know, but just something ambitious so that you, will make other people kind of envious. And they’ll go "Wow! He's not so good, she's not so good, I can do better!"