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'It's not niche anymore:' Climate change themes everywhere in Canadian art – CBC.ca

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Brett Story made a film about climate change that doesn’t once use the phrase.

Instead, The Hottest August walks a camera down everyday streets and asks people: “How do you feel about the future?”

“I was reflecting on my own disinterest in watching climate change films, despite a very profound investment and sense of the stakes,” said the Toronto-based filmmaker, whose work has won awards around the world.

“One of my own frustrations with a lot of climate change films is that they assume the problem is that we don’t have information. For me, there’s a different set of questions I wanted to ask.”

Canadian artists from singers to sculptors are doing the same. From writer Margaret Atwood’s climate fiction, or cli-fi, “MaddAddam” trilogy to an upcoming album from singer/songwriter Grimes, climate change permeates Canadian art.

“Climate is a hugely prominent topic and has been for a little while,” said Julian Carrington, programmer for Toronto’s Hot Docs and Planet In Focus documentary festivals. “It’s not niche anymore.”

Rink and An Unkindness, an installation by artist Mia Feuer, is seen in Calgary in a 2015 handout photo. (Handout/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“Absolutely,” said Mia Feuer, a Winnipeg-born sculptor teaching at the California College of the Arts. “As a grad student, I don’t remember climate issues being addressed in people’s work. I would say now, it’s absolutely everywhere.”

The challenge is to make work that addresses an inescapable fact of modern life without churning out agitprop.

“We’re not just getting together and making signs to take to the protest,” Feuer said.

For some, climate change is a new lens through which to look at some old themes.

“Where do we as individuals fit with society? Where does society fit with nature?” asks Edmonton poet Alice Major, whose most recent collection is titled “Welcome to the Anthropocene.”

“That just kind of grew constantly in me and that’s what the title poem is about — where do we belong?”

For others, the work itself raises the issue.

Feuer often uses petroleum-based materials such as Styrofoam. One afternoon, she was sitting on the banks of the Suez Canal watching tankers glide by.

“It was almost like a light bulb fired off in my mind. I needed to understand where these materials come from.”

Eventually, that led to work such as “An Unkindness,” an assemblage of what looks like oil-soaked industrial detritus that has shown in Washington’s prestigious Corcoran Gallery.

Whatever the inspiration, art isn’t a lecture, said Marcus Youssef, a Vancouver playwright whose one-hander “Dust” has been performed across North America.

“We as humans have a natural resistance to being hectored,” he said.

“(Art) is a perspective that isn’t didactic. It reflects some sort of human response to the question that has the potential to affect people more deeply or in a surprising way.”

Not that artists are averse to changing people’s behaviour. They just think there’s a better way than haranguing them.

“I like to make films that respect audiences and give people space to do thinking and feeling on their own terms,” Story said.

“That’s what art can do — make us both feel alive and also able to see things differently. I think that’s a precondition to being political actors in the world.”

“There’s a potential through the arts to connect in an emotional way, in a spiritual way,” said Feuer. “That might be how people might be moved to seek out change, to ask bigger questions.”

Major agrees.

“Poetry is not a screwdriver. It’s not something you have clearly defined results from.

“Poetry comes out of something happening in our hearts and good poetry does connect. That connection — you have no idea what comes out of that, but it could be a small motivation to pay attention.”

Audiences are receptive. Major said “Welcome to Anthropocene” drew reviews and attention as far afield as Los Angeles.

When Feuer showed her work in Calgary, “it was very positive.”

“I was hesitant to show it, (but) it had a great reception.”

Good art, including art about climate change, brings people together, said Youssef.

“One of the places where political art can fall is that it makes it easy to go, ‘Oh, that’s the bad guy.’ I actually don’t believe there is a bad guy.

“It’s trying to find the humour and humanity in everybody, the recognition of the degree in which we are all complicit.”

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Defence committee expands inquiry to include allegations against Admiral Art McDonald – CBC.ca

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The Trudeau government and Opposition Conservatives marked International Women’s Day today by trading barbs and accusations over reported threats against a senior naval officer who brought forward an allegation of misconduct against Canada’s defence chief.

The bitter back-and-forth came as members of the House of Commons defence committee agreed to invite new witnesses to testify in an expanded probe of the Liberals’ handling of allegations against the military’s top brass.

The list of new witnesses includes top Liberal officials as well as two former aides in the previous Conservative government. It also includes Lt.-Cmdr. Raymond Trotter, who reportedly flagged an allegation of misconduct by chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald last month.

Global News has reported Trotter subsequently received two threatening phone calls from blocked numbers, one from a person claiming to be a military officer and the other from someone who identified themselves as “a senior member of the Canadian government.”

The callers allegedly warned Trotter against co-operating with the Commons defence committee’s investigation and said that his military career would be over if he did. In response, Conservative defence critic James Bezan and fellow Tories Pierre Paul-Hus and Leona Alleslev released a statement Monday accusing the government of having “undertaken a co-ordinated campaign to threaten and silence a sexual misconduct whistleblower.”

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan is under fire after former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne alleged before the defence committee that Sajjan refused to look at evidence of possible misconduct involving former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“This is more evidence that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have gone to great lengths to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces,” added the statement. “Threatening a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to secure their silence is a clear and concerning abuse of power. The lengths that the Liberal government will go to in order to hide the truth from Canadians is appalling.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office fired back a few hours later.

“Not only was the minister’s office not aware of the identity of the caller prior to media reports, any insinuation that our government made threatening comments is utterly false,” Sajjan’s spokesman, Todd Lane, said in a statement.

Sajjan’s office decries ‘reckless insinuation’

“This baseless accusation from the Conservative party harms confidence in the processes that exist to help those who come forward with complaints of misconduct. This reckless insinuation only serves to create doubt for those who step forward and those considering it.”

Both Lane and the Department of National Defence also released a brief timeline covering when the allegation against McDonald was received and how it was handled, saying the first call from a “third party” came in Feb. 4.

That call went to a switchboard operator and was soon referred to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, according to the Defence Department, which launched an investigation without McDonald’s knowledge.

“When the switchboard received a complaint of misconduct, it was immediately relayed to an official in the Department of National Defence,” Lane said. “At no time did any staff in the office of the minister speak with the caller.”

The Defence Department added that McDonald only became aware of the investigation Feb. 24, “when case-specific information was disclosed.”

Eyre acting defence chief

McDonald temporarily stepped aside that same day, with Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre taking over as acting defence chief.

The CFNIS would not say Monday whether it is investigating the alleged threats against Trotter.

Following the report about Trotter, members of the Commons defence committee voted Monday to summon him for questions.

“The reason it needs to be a summons is he’s a person that is still in the chain of command,” Bezan said.

“According to reports he’s already faced intimidation and threats that his career is over. So we want to make sure that he feels free to appear without fear of reprimand. And the only way we can ensure that he can appear is to summon him through a subpoena.”

Committee members also agreed to invite Sajjan back to clarify what opposition members say are contradictions between his testimony and that of former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

Walbourne told the committee last week he first raised an allegation of sexual misconduct against then-chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance to the minister in March 2018.

Senior Liberal staffers invited to committee

The committee is also inviting Zita Astravas, who was Sajjan’s chief of staff at the time, and Elder Marques, who was a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to explain when they became aware of the allegations against Vance and what they did about them.

Committee members will also look into how Vance was selected to serve as chief of the defence staff in 2015, with invitations to be extended to Harper’s former chief of staff Ray Novak and then-defence minister Jason Kenney’s top aide at the time.

Global News has reported allegations Vance had an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that started more than a decade ago and continued after he was named chief of the defence staff, at which time he promised to root sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces.

Global has also reported on allegations about Vance sending an email to a much younger female officer in 2012, suggesting they go to a clothing-optional resort.

Vance has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Canadian Press and the allegations against him have not been independently verified. Global News has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing.

The CFNIS has confirmed that it opened an investigation in 2015 into Vance’s conduct while he was serving in Italy the previous year, but that it “did not meet the elements of the offence to lay charges.”

Military police have since opened an investigation into the allegations reported by Global. Sajjan has also promised a separate investigation, but it has yet to be launched.

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Jury names winners in Art Exposed – Kamloops This Week

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The jurors of Kamloops regional art exhibit Art Exposed have made their selections.

On Friday, three jurors made their picks for the Kamloops Art Council’s Art Exposed show in a variety of categories, including 2D, 3D split by emerging artists and established artists, and youth.

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Jurors this year included Kamloops-based artists Bill Frymire, Robin Hodgson and Debra Gow.

In the 2D emerging artist category, Carmen Teixeria-Derksen of Canoe took first place with Hope.

In second place was Jillian Beach of Kamloops with Circus of the Cosmos-II.

In the 2D established artist category, Edit Pal took first place with Wintertide, while second place went to Parm Armstrong for Pieces.

In 3D art, the winner of the emerging artist category was Mike Kehler of Kamloops for Guardian Muninn, with Jackie Jones’ Rocky Horror Game of Thrones or How it Should Have Ended winning second.

In the established artist category for 3D art, the winner was bronze sculptor Nathan Scott with The Window. Taking second place was Ed Jensen with Medicine Bird. Both artists live in Kamloops.

The youth category had one winner — Addysen Outerbridge won with Sutherland Falls.

Each first and second place winner will receive a $750 cash prize at the least, according to the KAC website.

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‘I paint for healing’: Indigenous art in the time of COVID-19 – TVO

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This story was published in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights.

Michel Dumont, 53, remembers getting a new job when he was 29 and partying so hard in celebration that he missed his first day of work. Alcohol abuse was not new to him — he says it’s connected to intergenerational trauma. His mother had attended the Indian Residential Day School in Nipigon, where she received an education in colonial values. “For my mom, school taught her not to value herself or culture. School beat the Ojibway out of her,” he says. “And my mom tried the same with me and my sister. And I have trauma resulting from that — the trauma from Indian Day School carried on.”

Dumont, a queer, Métis, two-spirit man living in Thunder Bay, coped by drinking until he couldn’t feel or remember the pain. But missing his first day of work was a turning point. He promised himself that his thirties wouldn’t be like his twenties, and he began working toward sobriety. He got a job at a transportation company serving people with disabilities — a job that involved lifting the people he was transporting. He focused on work as a distraction from alcohol but pushed himself too far. “No one told me with pain you should stop,” he says. Now, he has a degenerative disc disease and near-constant back pain. 

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He has been connected to art since early childhood — his mother was his first teacher, and elementary teachers quickly recognized his talents. In grade school, his work was selected for a travelling exhibit. He even won the Queen’s Jubilee, a competitive art award from the local legion. He turned to art to cope with both his physical and emotional pain. “I learned that I’m only so young — I only have so much time left,” he says. “My pain-free hours, I could be creating work.” 

He had his mother’s Indian Day School classroom picture made into ceramic tiles. From there, he smashed it into broken pieces and remade it into a mosaic to honour the students. The piece now hangs on the walls of the Definitely Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay.

Today, Dumont is not letting the COVID-19 pandemic — or his back pain — prevent him from showing his art digitally in Paris, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal; he held his first solo show in Winnipeg last summer. And he’s not alone. Artists from across Turtle Island are finding innovative ways of staying connected, honing their skills, and managing to make a living creating art.

Wanda Nanibush, an Anishinaabe curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, says the pandemic has reinforced the importance of Indigenous art. “I think it’s interesting that everyone is at home and everyone is isolated, and they immediately turn to art,” she says. “And I think that’s because art is a place we can get out of ourselves and beyond ourselves. Art has always been seen as part of healing. I wouldn’t say it can heal a pandemic — that’s impossible. That’s an actual physical thing. But it can heal some of the trauma of living through one.”

Giizis Soon Ikwe is an Anishinaabe woman from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, but calls Animikii-wiikwedong, Thunder Bay, home. Her English name is Leanna Marshall. She  works as an Indigenous counsellor and is currently enrolled in the Winnipeg Holistic Expressive Arts Therapy Institute. The diploma program is taught through an Indigenized lens and honours Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy.

According to Marshall, the Western model of counselling is an uneven playing field, with a “client” who has a problem and an “expert” who can fix it. In this Indigenous art-therapy model, Marshall says, when a student enrolls, “there’s already that assumption that they are carrying that wisdom within themselves to help with what it is they are looking for. That wisdom comes from them, but it also comes from that ancestral knowledge that we all carry as Indigenous people of this land.”

Marshall says that there is a heaviness to Indigenous stories but that she feels a shift among nations due to the acknowledgement of trauma. These days, she notes, she’ll often hear friends, family, or clients say, “Okay, that happened: Now how do we fix it for us, our children, and future generations?”

“You see this resurgence of language, you see a resurgence of traditional knowledge, and you see a resurgence of people out on the land and doing things that haven’t been done for years because of the residential schools,” she says. “Because all these policies have kept Indigenous people quiet and ashamed of who we are, but people are becoming really proud.”

Lucille Atlookan, a 31-year-old from Eabametoong First Nation, was always encouraged by relatives to doodle and draw. Their uncle gave them their first paint set. However, they also struggled with health issues and trauma stemming from a sexual assault. As a teenager, they moved to Thunder Bay to access mental-health care. Now, they’re working on managing their physical health. “I got really sick because of lupus and chronic kidney disease,” says Atlookan. “I was close to kidney failure so I changed my diet drastically and went back to beading and painting. I’m not a painter, but I paint for healing.”

Atlookan moved to Thunder Bay at 15 years old and now calls the city home. They became involved with the Definitely Superior Art Gallery and created the Neechee Studio — a space designed for young Indigenous people to learn traditional skills that was originally hosted in the gallery (it’s now operating virtually). Through Neechee, they realized they wanted to be a better role model to other young people new to the city. For Atlookan, that meant getting an education. “I took the Native Access Program [at Lakehead University] and found my passion. It was always art, but I found I wanted to be an arts educator,” they say. Today, Atlookan is working toward concurrent honours bachelor degrees in fine art and education.

Atlookan is also learning how to run the studio’s arts programming. “For a long time, [Neechee Studio] wasn’t exactly run by Indigenous youth. I didn’t know how to run it — I was really shy and modest about it,” they say. “But I started to grow. I was mentored by Indigenous artists in Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation, like Jean Marshall, Helen Pelletier, Rihkee Strapp, and Cree Stevens.” They also count non-Indigenous artist Lora Northway as a mentor.

Atlookan says their line of family portraits helped them see the strength and wisdom in their family. They want to use art to help youth see their inherent traditional knowledge.

Dumont is now focusing on a line of cellophane art called Queer CosPlay. Essentially, he takes coloured cellophane and creates a shape — a wig, an Elvis outfit, a COVID-19 virus — and adds multiple layers until he’s reached a desired colour and design. He enjoys the medium because it doesn’t bother his sensitivity to smell. He also still works with tiled mosaic, which he first used 20 years ago. “I found these sample boards on Simpson Street, behind a ceramic-bathroom-tile store, and these sample boards were just lying in the alley, with these beautiful colours,” he says. “I took them home on the bus; that’s what started me off at that first show.”

He’s now part of a mentorship program with the Arts AccessAbility Network of Manitoba.

He says art helps him manage his anxiety and helps him express his creative side. He learned to focus his energy on creating while he is pain-free, usually first thing in the morning. The act of creating, he says, relaxes and soothes his mind — it reminds him of his grandparents knitting in front of the television, which grounds him as he does the same, only with mosaics or cellophane: “I’m still doing that, working while I watch television.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Michel Dumont’s first name. TVO.org regrets the error.

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