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Charles Comfort mural removal statement from the Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee Art Cluster

June 10, 2019
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Beginning June 17, 2019, Charles Comfort’s 19-metre long mural, British Columbia Pageant (1951), will be removed from its current location in SFU’s Academic Quadrangle (AQ) where it has been installed since 2004. The removal process will take approximately 10 days. The mural will be stored at SFU.

The Comfort mural has been criticized for its representation of Canadian history in its portrayal of European settlers and industrialists colonizing the lands now called British Columbia. It presents Indigenous people as decorative, using symbols drawn from First Nations’ cultures to frame the contents of the mural, and it excludes non-European settler populations and contributions made by women to the development of the province.

There were immediate protests across the university in response to the mural’s installation, which have continued ever since. The Cedar Table Series Anti-colonial Art Contest (November 2004–February 2005), co-organized by the Simon Fraser Student Society and the First Nations Student Society, was an effort to bring forward representations of what is missing in British Columbia Pageant by reflecting the settler colonial foundations of the province. Over the last decade and half, additional works from the SFU Art Collection that approach questions of Indigenous identity and politics by artists Marianne Nicolson, Bill Reid, and Edgar Heap of Birds have been installed in proximity to the mural as critical and representational interventions.

In September 2017, after extensive consultations, SFU released a report by the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council entitled Walk This Path With Us that specifically called for the removal of the mural.

The Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee Art Cluster was established to address art related Calls for Action arising from the Walk This Path With Us report which made the recommendation to remove the mural.  This recommendation has been accepted.

As the removal occurs, students, staff, faculty and the public are encouraged to provide responses.

The Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee Art Cluster is:

Dorothy Christian (Associate Director, Indigenous Initiatives)

Karrmen Crey (Assistant Professor, School of Communication)

Sophie McCall (Associate Professor, English)

Bryan Myles (Associate Director, Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Studies, INS graduate student)

Melanie O’Brian (Director, SFU Galleries)

Deanna Reder (Chair and Associate Professor, First Nations Studies)

June Scudeler (Assistant Professor, First Nations Studies)

Elizabeth Starr (Campus Planning, Development Planner)

cheyanne turions (Curator, SFU Galleries)

Contacts:

Karrmen Crey, Stó:lō, kcrey@sfu.ca

Deanna Reder, Cree-Métis, deanna_reder@sfu.ca