Mural depicting colonial history of Prince George to be demolished

·3 min read
The 'Centennial Mural' in downtown Prince George, B.C. is set to be demolished. Created in 1967, it is the city's oldest piece of public art. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)
The 'Centennial Mural' in downtown Prince George, B.C. is set to be demolished. Created in 1967, it is the city's oldest piece of public art. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)

The city of Prince George will be demolishing its oldest piece of public art: a mosaic mural depicting the colonial history of central B.C.

The piece is set to be destroyed alongside the old downtown swimming pool, which is being replaced later this year.

City staff said it would be impossible to preserve or relocate the artwork, given its age and lack of structural integrity.

The mural, which was created in 1967 for Canada's centennial, is meant to celebrate the region's history. It contains images of the explorer Simon Fraser, the Cariboo gold rush and the early logging industry.

But it has also been criticized for its depiction of Indigenous people, who appear solely as sitting at the feet of a preaching missionary. In the background there are teepees, which were not used by the Dakelh people of the region, who instead built pit houses for shelter.

Andrew Kurjata/CBC
Andrew Kurjata/CBC

Despite this, Lheidli T'enneh First Nation elected chief Dolleen Logan said the mural is an accurate reflection of colonial attitudes toward her people, and asked the city to attempt to preserve it for its historic value.

"That's what we were forced to do," she said of the image of Indigenous people kneeling before a missionary. "That's Prince George history, that's our history."

She called the mural a learning tool and urged the city to find a high-profile place to display photographs of it after it is demolished so future generations can see it.

"We can't take the history away. We have to put it in the forefront to let people know this is exactly what happened."

City staff will be taking high definition photos of the mural for their archives, though it has not yet been decided if or where those images will be displayed.

Council also voted to relocate a nearby statue of Terry Fox from the same park to a new location in the city's downtown core. The statue is currently at the start and finish line of a marathon Fox ran in Prince George shortly before announcing plans to run across the country for his famous Marathon of Hope.

Demolition project already over budget

The demolition of the old Four Seasons swimming pool, adjacent to Day's Inn motel and Fire Hall No. 1, which has also been replaced, is now budgeted at more than $8 million — $4 million over the initial estimates.

Coun. Kyle Sampson voted against approving extra funds for the demolition, saying it was "difficult to swallow" following other high-profile cost overruns, including construction of the new fire hall and the nearby parkade.

Coun. Cori Ramsay called the overages the "elephant in the room" for council and reminded the public that the city is undergoing a process of better managing the budget of major projects.

No firm plans have been made for the future of the old pool and firehall sites once demolition is complete. Instead, city staff are recommending a "downtown civic core planning" to determine priorities for the downtown area and how the sites can best be used to support that.

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