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News / March 14, 2019

Remai Modern CEO Responds to Harassment Allegation

Gregory Burke says he is “eager to clear any speculation of wrongdoing” and that further comment is coming soon. Board chair Scott Verity also issued a statement about workplace complaints at the museum.
The Remai Modern in Saskatoon. Photo: Nic Lehoux via Remai Modern Instagram. The Remai Modern in Saskatoon. Photo: Nic Lehoux via Remai Modern Instagram.
The Remai Modern in Saskatoon. Photo: Nic Lehoux via Remai Modern Instagram. The Remai Modern in Saskatoon. Photo: Nic Lehoux via Remai Modern Instagram.

According to media reports this week, Remai Modern CEO Gregory Burke has now responded to an allegation of workplace harassment. The allegation—the subject of a complaint contained in a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission document obtained by CBC News—was first made public on March 5, also by CBC News.

On Monday, March 11, Remai Modern CEO Gregory Burke reportedly issued a statement to some media. CBC reporter Guy Quenneville posted a screenshot of at least part of that statement on his Twitter feed. In it, Burke stated: “I am aware of an unproven allegation against me that dates back to 2013 and was filed in 2016. I continue to cooperate fully and engage actively in the process. I am eager to clear any speculation of wrongdoing since the allegation has been incorrectly characterized in media reports. However, given the sensitivities involved, I am unable to speak publicly on the matter until the process has concluded. I appreciate the messages of support that I have received to date and will provide further comment in the very near future.”

Burke is due to have his last day at the Remai Modern on Friday, March 15th. He is also due to begin a post as director at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki sometime in April 2019.

When contacted for information, a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission spokesperson said they could not confirm when the current complaints process regarding Burke would be completed. The spokesperson also indicated that the commission tends not to release public decisions at the moment.

Other Remai Modern gallery leaders have also made statements since the workplace harassment allegations—and other workplace complaints—have come to light.

On Sunday, March 10th, outgoing Remai Modern board chair Scott Verity took to his own Twitter feed to issue a five-part statement about some of the other workplace complaints that have surfaced in ongoing reporting by CBC Saskatoon and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

In that lengthy Twitter statement, Verity said that, to his knowledge, only three formal workplace complaints (beyond the Human Rights Commission complaint) had been filed. And he said that none of those three were substantiated under independent investigation.

Verity also chalked up much of the complaints to the stress of launching a new gallery.

“The challenges and stress leading to the successful launch of Remai Modern significantly affected our employees and contributed to workplace conflicts,” Verity wrote. “In all cases, we listened and responded to concerns whenever they were raised. A healthy, welcoming and productive work environment has been, and continues to be, among our highest priorities.”

On Monday, March 11, the Mayor of Saskatoon, Charlie Clark, also spoke about workplace matters at the Remai, stating that the City had to intervene in workplace issues there.

“As noted last week, we had some issues arise where some workplace concerns were brought to the city’s attention, as well, and those required attention and it required the city to again work with the board to make sure they were being addressed,” Clark said in the StarPhoenix.

Also on Monday, March 11, the Globe and Mail posted a feature story by Marsha Lederman about the allegations against Burke and the situation at the Remai Modern. It provided further context to board issues there via comment from board member Dion Tootoosis, who ceased participating the board after a short time due to feeling, says the Globe, that he was a “token” Indigenous board member.

“If the conversations were managed by the chair and conducted respectfully; if the conversation wasn’t monopolized like it was by city council members, I really believe the situation like the one with the executive director could have been addressed properly,” says Dion Tootoosis in the Globe.

More updates will be published as they become available.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. She has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.