TORONTO, May 26, 2015 – Writer, artist and environmental activist Franke James will receive the inaugural PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize at PEN Canada’s Ideas in Dialogue event, June 2.
Introduced in 2014 in memory of Kenneth A. Filkow, member of PEN’s Canadian Issues Committee and former Chair of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, the annual award is presented to an individual or institution in Canada who has shown courage in freeing information and ideas from restraint or interference.
James discovered she was under censure from the Canadian government while attempting a European tour of her visual essay on climate change. The Federal government cancelled her funding, and through freedom of information requests James was able to prove that the cancellation occurred because “the artists’ work dealt mostly with climate change, and was advocating a message that was contrary to the government’s policies on the subject.” James shared her story inBanned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship (2013).
PEN Canada presents James with the inaugural PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize to reward her tenacity in uncovering an abuse of power, and commitment to fostering a national conversation in the face of censorship.
“James’ struggle shows what lengths the government will go to in order to suppress dissent on key policy issues,” said William Kowalski, chair of PEN Canada’s Canadian Issues Committee. “It shows what certain leaders will try to get away with when they think no one is watching, and it shows just how important one voice can be when it comes to speaking the truth.”
The award, valued at $1000, will be presented by Filkow’s son-in-law, Brian Borzykowski, and is funded by an endowment from Philip Slayton and Cynthia Wine.