Quebec's Alienfest Cancelled After Band Accuses Organizers of Censorship

Metal band Guhn Twei alleged that the fest rescinded their invitation to perform over their critiques of the copper smelter in Rouyn-Noranda

Photo: William Brière Daigle / The Canadian Press

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Apr 4, 2024

The third edition of Alienfest — a family-friendly alternative music festival in La Sarre, QC, scheduled to take place in early June — has been cancelled after organizers faced accusations of censorship from one of the local bands scheduled to perform, the Canadian Press reports.

Simon Turcotte, lead singer of Rouyn-Noranda metal band Guhn Twei, alleged that, last week, he received a message from the festival rescinding the trio's invitation to perform. 

Guhn Twei's 2023 album, Glencorruption, derived its namesake from the region's arsenic-emitting copper smelter, owned by Switzerland-based company Glencore — and the festival cited its sponsorship from La Sarre-based steel equipment producer Métal Marquis as a "conflict of interest," as per email screenshots Turcotte shared with the Canadian Press.

Now, to give you an idea of how far the band went in, lyrics included in the Glencorruption title track alone refer to the mining company as "thieves in ties," "capitalist parasites" and "rapists of the planet."

Located 60 km from La Sarre in Rouyn-Noranda, the Horne Smelter has come under immense political and media scrutiny for its arsenic emissions, which Quebec had previously allowed to be 33 times the provincial standard. In 2022, that permission was reduced to just five times higher than the rest of the province.

Quebec's public health institute has published studies showing that Rouyn-Noranda residents have higher rates of lung cancer than the rest of the province. Turcotte, age 35, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and his right leg was amputated due to the disease's impacts.

"To censor a local artist whose cancer has cost him a leg, and who denounces the poisoning of his fellow citizens in his songs so as not to displease an ecocidal multinational is the complete antithesis of the punk movement," Turcotte wrote in a Facebook post on March 28 after Guhn Twei's invitation to perform was rescinded. 

The following Monday (April 1), Alienfest announced its cancellation. "Conflicts of interest between our sponsors and participants force us to make this decision," organizers said in a release first obtained by Radio-Canada. Today, the festival issued another news release confirming there would be no future editions of Alienfest — a possibility that was reportedly already being considered prior to pulling the plug on the 2024 event.

Meanwhile, yesterday (April 3), Métal Marquis issued a statement of its own, claiming to have had no say in the festival programming or the event's cancellation. Further, the company claimed that neither the Horne Smelter nor Glencore put any pressure on the festival, and that their employee was acting "independently" when they told Guhn Twei they were no longer invited to perform.

"As a sponsor, our role is not to define or limit the artistic scope of the festivals we support," Métal Marquis president Patrick Perreault said in the statement. This certainly calls to mind the near-reverse situation at SXSW in Austin, TX, last month, when numerous artists pulled out of the festival over its ties to the US Army and defence industry.

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