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Saskatoon won't be put off by Mitchell put-down Print-ready version

by Jeremy Warren
Postmedia News
July 26, 2013

Joni Mitchell describes her comments as 'candid.' Photograph by: Aaron Harris, The Canadian Press File Photo , The Starphoenix

Joni Mitchell's put-down of Saskatoon won't stop her former hometown from hoping to honour the Canadian singer-songwriter.

"I would not be deterred from our efforts based on any personal opinions Ms. Mitchell may have expressed," says former Saskatchewan premier Lorne Calvert.

Mitchell was born in Calgary but moved with her family at a young age to Saskatoon, where she grew up, spent her teen years and began her musical pursuits.

In remarks this week, she seemed to dismiss Saskatoon, calling it "bigoted" and "like the Deep South." Mitchell's comments about Saskatoon and her desire to stay away from the planning of another community project won't stop the group from finding a way to celebrate her work and influence, said Calvert, who is part of the group. He believes Mitchell's assessment is inaccurate.

"It perhaps reflects an experience of growing up here in the '50s and '60s," he said Wednesday. "On the other hand, it's not a terrible thing to be challenged from somebody on the outside."

Calvert also confirmed that arrangements are in place to return a collection of memorabilia, which includes dresses handmade by Mitchell and dozens of scrapbooks about her career compiled by her mother over several decades. He called the disagreement between Mitchell and her father's friend, who was storing the collection, a "miscommunication."

Mayor Don Atchison on Wednesday morning said he had not read Mitchell's comments. Tourism Saskatoon, which hosted a meeting of the ad hoc group at its office, declined to comment.

Mitchell knows she has a knack for raising a ruckus with her words.

"I'm so candid that I always start controversy," the Canadian musical icon told Postmedia this week.

Mitchell described Saskatoon with a mix of love and disappointment while talking about the city's failed attempts at honouring her.

One comment in particular - "Saskatoon has always been an extremely bigoted community" - drew criticism from a wide range of people, while others agreed with the legendary musician's assessment of the city's race relations.

"You have to understand Joni has a way of using hyperbole to make a point," said Larry LeBlanc, a senior editor with Celebrity Access who recently was given a Juno for his work as a Canadian music journalist.

"I don't know her that well, but I know her. Joni is often described as ornery, but I never found her that way. She is very animated and very bright, well-read ... I think it's something about the Prairies: She says exactly what is on her mind."

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