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Joni Mitchell: Saskatoon 'Extremely Bigoted,' Like 'Deep South'

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JONI MITCHELL
Musician Joni Mitchell attends the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring L.A. Reid held at The Beverly Hilton on February 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty) | Getty

Joni Mitchell may consider Saskatoon to be her hometown, but that doesn't mean she thinks it's a nice place.

"Saskatoon has always been an extremely bigoted community. It's like the deep south," Mitchell said in an interview published by the Star Phoenix Wednesday.

The legendary singer's comments were triggered by a renewed attempt to find a way for Saskatoon to honour Mitchell. Numerous previous attempts, including a plan for a statue and a museum, never came to fruition and Mitchell seems to have lost patience with the city.

There is also the matter of some of Mitchell's personal belongings, such as scrapbooks made by her mother and homemade dresses, that have been held in storage in Saskatoon by a friend of her family. The singer says she has been trying to retrieve the items without success.

Former Saskatchewan premier Lorne Calvert, who is part of the group attempting to put together a new tribute plan, told the CBC efforts are now underway to return the personal effects to Mitchell.

But that doesn't mean Calvert has given up on commemorating Mitchell.

"There's no use getting agitated about this particular opinion that she has," Calvert said. "I think it's wrong – I'm sure it's wrong – but that's it. It doesn't change the fact that, from this community, from this Prairie soil, arose this great creative mind and spirit who continues to create."

Previously, Calvert had told CTV that he and others thought the collection of belongings should stay in Saskatoon, although it was unclear where exactly it would go.

"We’re not really talking about a centre or a facility with walls. It’s kind of a without-walls recognition of Joni Mitchell," Calvert said.

Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod, Alberta, but moved to Saskatoon at the age of 11 and attended high school in the city. Her parents, Bill and Myrtle Anderson, remained in Saskatchewan.

When they moved into a long-term care facility, the belongings collected by Mitchell's mother were put in storage for potential future use in a museum. Mitchell has grown frustrated with the lack of action from the city, according to the Phoenix, and now just wants her stuff back.

"I feel that [Saskatoon is] very isolated, very unworldly, and doesn't grasp the idea of honour ... There are so many things I want to do, that I should be doing, without getting sidetracked into these dubious and eventually nonexistent honours." Mitchell told the paper.

To its credit, the Phoenix has posted a thoughtful reaction to Mitchell's comments, calling on the city to recognize its flaws and to act immediately to honour its most-famous daughter.

"This is something that needs to happen, not just for her sake but because she is part of the story of Saskatoon."

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