British Columbia

Culturally sensitive coverup at B.C. legislature

Visitors to the B.C. legislature in Victoria will never again be able to view murals portraying bare-breasted aboriginal women that native leaders have called demeaning.

Controversial murals at the B.C. legislature portraying native life in centuries past are being permanently covered up.

Painted in 1932, the George Southwell murals depict, among other things, bare-breasted native women carrying logs and baskets of fish, and a native leader standing before a judge. Native leaders have long complained about the murals, calling them demeaning.  

B.C. legislative Speaker Bill Barisoff said it would have cost up to $1 million to cut the painted panels from the walls without destroying them or damaging the building.

Instead, Barisoff said they will be covered up, so technically they will still be there but no one will be able to see them.

"I think it's probably the best decision that could be made — one that certainly isn't going to cost the amount of money we thought it would," Barisoff said.

In April 2007, the legislature passed a motion to adopt a 2001 report that recommended removing the murals.

Some members had argued that removing them would be akin to rewriting history, but the vote passed 68-3.

The paintings have been covered by drapes for several months, and will eventually be covered with other art that's considered a better representation of B.C.'s history.