Saskatoon

Ex-Remai Modern CEO Gregory Burke says he's 'always supported gender equality'

Gregory Burke issued a statement after a Saskatoon judge stayed a workplace harassment complaint against him.

Gregory Burke reacts after Saskatoon judge stays workplace harassment complaint against him

Gregory Burke said his time as the inaugural CEO of Remai Modern remains a career highlight. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The former CEO and executive director of Saskatoon's Remai Modern Art Museum says he's "greatly relieved" a complaint of gender-based workplace harassment against him has been stayed by a Saskatoon judge, adding he has "always supported gender equality" in the workplace. 

"Today is an opportunity to move forward and look ahead. I look forward to resuming my career in 2020," Gregory Burke wrote in a statement he tweeted Thursday afternoon.

On Tuesday, a Saskatoon judge ordered that Burke be removed from a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission complaint. The judge said the 31-month investigation was unusually delayed and caused "significant prejudice" to Burke.

"He has languished under the cloud of uncertainty for too long," Justice Brenda Hildebrandt wrote in response to Burke's application to have the investigation ended either in whole or as far as it concerned him.

What sparked the investigation

The investigation into Burke was prompted by a human rights complaint filed in October 2015 by a woman who used to work with Burke at the Mendel Art Gallery. Mendel Art Gallery eventually became Remai Modern Art Museum, so both corporations were named alongside Burke in the complaint.

The woman had alleged that Burke, the gallery's CEO and executive director, repeatedly undermined and bullied her on the basis of her gender from March 2013 to October 2014. 

"I have been committed to exacting standards of professionalism throughout my career and I have always supported gender equality, as any fair review of my work as a curator and museum director would reveal," Burke wrote Thursday.

Burke pointed to a section of Hildebrandt's decision that stated "there were no statements containing sexual content nor any overt acts of gender or sex-based discrimination alleged in the complaint."

The investigation into Burke was sparked by a human rights complaint filed in October 2015 by a woman who used to work with Burke at the Mendel Art Gallery. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The removal of Burke as a respondent means the gallery will now face the complaint alone.

"I do not have any instructions from my clients to comment on the court's recent decision," Kevin Wilson, the gallery's lawyer, said Thursday.

Wilson had previously said the gallery took no position on Burke's application to end the investigation. 

Ken Norman, who was Saskatchewan's first chief human rights commissioner in the late '70s and early '80s, said the commission can still proceed with the complaint — unless the gallery seeks a similar court order as Burke. 

"On such a court application, the burden likely would be higher for the gallery as an institution to prove significant prejudice as there is not in play the same element of personal psychological harm or stigma to a person's reputation," Norman said via email. 

Time at Remai 'a career highlight'

Burke said his time at Remai Modern, which opened to the public in October 2017 after years of planning, remained a career highlight, "if not the highlight of my life."

"Its first-year success, including 450,000 visits, international acclaim and finances in the black, exceeded my wildest expectations," he said. 

He also echoed statements made in a letter published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix in March 2019.

"Over the years, there has been concerted opposition, by some, to the vision and direction of the gallery as both a local and international destination," he wrote. "They have been irritated by its incredible success, which of course was driven by the extraordinary vision and philanthropy of Ellen Remai, the bold courage of community leaders and commitment from the citizens of Saskatoon." 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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