Free Expression Events: August 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013
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CJFE has compiled a list of interesting upcoming events that celebrate the importance of free expression and press freedom in a variety of ways. From awards galas to annual general meetings, these events span the continent and present opportunities to support and learn about free expression in Canada.

Fundraiser for Ron Plain of Idle No More

Date: August 7, 2013. Location: The APK, 347 Clarence St., London, ON. Time: 8:00pm-11:00pm Ron Plain is a spokesman for the Idle No More movement and Chief of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Plain was arrested for taking part in the December 21, 2012 Aamjiwnaang (Sarnia) blockade of CN Railway tracks. The blockade was organized as a move of solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and to protest the placement of the tracks on Aamjiwnaang lands. Plain is facing exorbitant fines and potential jail times. There is also evidence that CN is attempting to buy Plain’s silence, offering to drop charges against him if he agrees not to participate in any other obstruction of CN tracks. There has been concern that Ron Plain is being used as a scapegoat for the movement, as he has been the only Idle No More member to face legal charges for his role in the protests. As such, it seems that CN is trying to stifle the free expression rights of the Aamjiwnaang chief and his people through “criminalization of dissent.” This event aims to raise money for Plain’s defense and to “celebrate the bravery and resistance shown at Aamjiwnaang.” There will be a variety of speakers as well as entertainment. An IndieGoGo campaign has also been set up to raise money for Plain’s legal defense. Tickets: Idle No More is requesting donations of $3-5, or pay what you can. Payment is at the door. See the event website for further details.

2013 Global Youth Assembly

Date: August 7-10, 2013 Location: John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, Edmonton, AB The John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights is hosting its fourth annual "Ignite Change Now! Global Youth Assembly" (GYA). The GYA is an international human rights conference for youth and young adults 15-28, with this year's theme zeroing in on "the health of human rights and identify where they can contribute to fostering equality, justice and freedom." This theme will encourage participants to develop a more holistic conception of health that goes beyond mere bodily wellbeing. The GYA program includes 4 days of inspirational talks from international speakers, workshops, and multimedia project planning. This forum aims to encourage young people to become more active in their communities, realize their goals of enacting change, and get feedback on their ideas. Registration: Please see the GYA website for registration info.

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Date: August 17-October 27, 2013 Location: The Art Gallery of Ontario “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” is a retrospective show of the work of Chinese dissident artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Ai has repeatedly denounced corruption in the Mainland Chinese government, as well as their violations of basic human rights such as free speech. An example of this can be seen in his piece Snake Ceiling, which commemorates the death of 5,000 schoolchildren in a Sichuan earthquake, as well as the government’s refusal to take responsibility for their deaths. Ai’s politically charged artworks have made him a frequent target of government officials, and he was severely beaten by police in 2009. He has also been under house arrest for several years. This event is a travelling exhibition throughout North America, with the AGO being the only stop in Canada, and it offers a unique opportunity to experience the artist’s unique take on free expression issues in China. Tickets: Prices vary, tickets can be purchased on the AGO website. Tickets are now available for AGO members, and will become open to the public on July 27, 2013.

Book Launch: “Blocked on Weibo”

Date: August 29, 2013 Location: The Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, Munk School of Global Affairs, 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto Time: 6:00-8:00pm Jason Q. Ng is the Google Policy Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab as well as a research consultant for China Digital Times. China has long been a site of severe Internet censorship. The country has its own versions of Facebook and Twitter in order to monitor and control free expression in the digital sphere, and citizens who push the boundaries of acceptable content often face detention by Chinese authorities. Ng has written a book titled Blocked on Weibo, charting suppressed search terms on China’s alternative to Facebook, Sina Weibo. This project began as a blog and quickly developed into a Blocked on Weibo, which not only lists more than 150 forbidden terms but also attempts to explain why the Chinese government would feel the need to censor these keywords. Such terms range from “tank,” referencing the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to the names of government officials who might be subject to public criticism. Blocked on Weibo is “an invaluable guide to sensitive topics in modern day China […] [exposing] the fascinating fissures between the idealized society that Chinese authorities dream of having and the actual one that Chinese netizens are creating each day.” This event is a fantastic opportunity to learn about obstacles to free expression in China as Jason Ng will be speaking about his book and internet censorship in the country more generally. Tickets: Admission to the event is free, however guests must register beforehand on the event website, where further details about the event can also be found.

Ai Weiwei: Voices of Freedom

Date: October 2, 2013 Location: Baillie Court, Art Gallery of Ontario Time: 7:00-9:00pm Doors open at 6:00pm Further expanding on the AGO retrospective of Ai Weiwei’s work, CJFE will be partnering with the gallery to present a multi-media event to pay tribute to Ai’s relentless pursuit of free expression through art, social media and political protest. The evening will be hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti, of CBC’s The Current and will include presentations on the meaning of freedom of expression by individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds, including music, visual art, and literature. While the event is taking place in October, tickets are on sale now and space is limited, so be sure to book your tickets ASAP! Tickets: Prices vary, please see the AGO website for ticket information and further event details.

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