Fired artist takes case for swastika art to B.C. Supreme Court

A Prince George artist is seeking a B.C. Supreme Court review of a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision to dismiss a complaint after he was removed from a position on the Omineca Arts Council because he uses swastikas in his work.

In a petition and affidavits filed Wednesday at the Prince George courthouse, James Miller said he was elected to the OAC board in October 2018 and given the responsibility for communications. But roughly 36 hours later, he was told he had been removed from the position.

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“The reason given was that I used swastikas in my artwork on my personal website and that any connection made between myself and the society, as a board member, would be detrimental to the society,” he said in an affidavit.

In March, he filed a complaint to the HRT, alleging religious discrimination. In June, HRT chair Diana Juricevic denied the claim because Miller failed to identify his religion and explain how it was a factor in the OAC’s conduct.

She also said his complaint appeared to really be about protecting artistic freedom and free speech, which is not the purpose of the B.C. Human Rights Code.

“It is true that the swastika is a symbol found in many cultures throughout history where it holds positive meaning,” Juricevic said. “However, the swastika also holds an extreme negative meaning based on its use by the Nazi government during World War II; and because of this it is looked upon with zero tolerance.”

Miller’s petition to the court includes examples of his work — among them two paintings of swastikas, one covered with the names of people he admires and another of those he feels are evil. Miller’s name is on both works.

 

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