Sven & Janice

Tuesday February 14, 2017, I was finally given the opportunity to address the Jasper Mayor and Councillors at their Committee of the Whole meeting. Busking was on the agenda. Dave Baker and Marianne Garrah of the Habitat for the Arts had submitted their report on the “Busking Pilot Project” which they had administered.

Background on last summer’s controversy can be found in this post from August 2016, and several other posts on this blog related to the busking matter. In short, I was denied a busking permit in 2016 because of my “Sorry mom” video, in other words because my conclusions about what actually happened during WW2 do not conform to the mainstream Hollywood version of history.

Dave Baker and Marianne Garrah of the Habitat for the Arts spoke first, to summarize their findings and recommendations in the Busking Pilot Project Report. The most important point they made was that vetting of buskers should be based on talent alone.  This was, in my view, a tacit admission that they erred last summer when they made the hasty decision to deny me a busking permit because of my “publicly proclaimed non-inclusive beliefs”. They had dug themselves in deep, and apparently did not know how to get themselves out. This is a new year, with a new “Busking Pilot Project”, with new rules. Hallelujah!

My presentation was next on the agenda. I began by pointing to the irony of my current situation of having been barred from busking, the very activity I lobbied them to allow, approximately 5 years earlier. Lo and behold, when busking finally became a reality in Jasper last summer, I couldn’t participate.

My main point was that the Habitat had subordinated its role as an Arts and Culture institution to that of a thought policing organization.

I reminded Council that I have volunteered my violin playing all over town for all kinds of people and organizations and fundraisers for several decades. People have been only too happy to accept my time and generosity. I pointed out that in spite of the fact that I have long been an activist for all kinds of environmental and political causes, whether it be saving the caribou or opposing skihill expansion, or my former Green Party campaigning, I have never brought a megaphone to my violin stage. [Perhaps I should have…]

I also pointed out that there had been no accountability for decisions being made arbitrarily and without any due process whatsoever. This is a municipal program, therefore this should be the responsibility of Council. Someone needs to be answerable, and last summer there was a deadly silence in response to my attempt and other people’s attempts to get answers.

Relegating the development and implementation of the busking program to Dave Baker’s school project was not a good idea. (Baker used this program to partially fulfil requirements of a course he was enrolled in.) I mused outloud about whether or not he had informed the instructor about his controversial thought policing role, and I wondered if he had passed his course.

Here is a beautiful letter of support, which I believe underlines the points I made to Town Council.

Hi Monika,
I will be unable to make it to the council meeting tomorrow.

Just an FYI, Marianne approached me just last week to ask if I thought that they should issue you a busking licence. I said I did, and when she asked why, I gave these reasons:

1) You play beautiful music, beautifully.
2) We are a community that purports to value diversity. That should include valuing diverse opinions, not just diverse gender identities and cultural backgrounds.
3) I know you to be a kind person, and over the years I’ve seen you celebrate diverse cultural and ethnic heritages. Whatever your beliefs, I know that they don’t come from a place of hatred or intolerance.
4) I’ve seen you volunteer tirelessly, and stand up for our natural heritage and for arts and culture in this community. It could be argued that we owe you a debt of gratitude.

Marianne was receptive and gave thoughtful and positive feedback on these statements. I would not be surprised if she has reconsidered the Habitat’s stance on providing you with a busking license.

If it helps or you have the opportunity, please consider this little note a letter of support and feel free to share it as needed.

With love, support and best wishes,

There was one councillor who spoke frankly about his distaste for my “misguided position” which he called “poison”, and his inability to separate that from my musical talent. He also spoke about my “aggressiveness” with regards to my views. I wonder, how is my apology to my parents “aggressive”? I have never once had a conversation with this particular councillor since last June, so again, where does he get the idea that I am “aggressive”? Methinks it is because he does not agree with my views. That is a common reaction.

In spite of that one councillor’s negative utterances, I felt that my presentation was generally well received. During the break, several people thanked me in a very positive manner. I feel the winds are changing.

Let us hope that my reading of the positive signals coming my way will not betray me. I plan on being on the streets this summer with my violin and a big smile.