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Museum CEO dumped

Ottawa declines to renew Murray's contract

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2014 (927 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is looking for a new president and CEO after Ottawa declined to renew its contract with Stuart Murray, the first person at the helm of the $351-million Winnipeg facility.

On Wednesday, CMHR board chairman Eric Hughes announced Nov. 2 will be Murray's last day at the first federal museum commissioned outside the national capital region. Appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009, Murray spent five years overseeing every aspect of its construction, including last month's official opening, an event diminished by incomplete galleries as well as Harper's absence.

Stuart Murray says the museum's board had given him every indication his contract would be renewed by Ottawa. It wasn't.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Stuart Murray says the museum's board had given him every indication his contract would be renewed by Ottawa. It wasn't.

Hughes praised Murray for shepherding the "nicest physical building in the country" into existence and said everyone involved with the museum owes a debt of gratitude to the outgoing president and CEO.

"He brought it from a hole in the ground to really an iconic building," Hughes said from Calgary, adding Murray had to oversee a trio of unique tasks.

"You have this incredible, unusual situation where there is this startup Crown corporation -- which is an anomaly by itself -- and you have a museum outside the national capital, and it's a museum of human rights."

During Murray's five years at the museum, he contended with cost overruns, funding shortfalls, a battle with the City of Winnipeg over payments in lieu of taxes and squabbling among Canadian ethnic groups about the museum's content.

Approximately one-third of the museum's staff departed, including curators who complained the content of some exhibits had been sanitized or watered down.

Hughes declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the decision not to renew Murray's contract. He also would not address whether the incomplete nature of the museum -- only four of 11 galleries were complete in September -- factored into Ottawa's decision.

"We're not willing to go there," Hughes said.

Murray said he was taken by surprise when told his contract would not be renewed.

"I'm obviously disappointed because I did not see this coming," he said in an interview. "I totally accept that the government has the prerogative to make this decision. I know this was a five-year contract but I had every hope that it would be extended."

Murray said the museum's board had given him every indication his contract would in fact be renewed. He said he does not want news of his departure to undermine the accomplishment of opening the museum.

"I put five years of really hard, good work into this. I'm disappointed that I'm leaving, but it doesn't diminish the incredible pride I have in what we've accomplished," he said.

Gail Asper, the museum's lead private fundraiser, thanked Murray for "putting his hand up" to take on what she described as "the rather challenging job" of forging her late father Israel Asper's dream of a human rights museum "into some kind of reality we can actually go and visit."

The museum's 8,200 private donors should be pleased with the facility's content when all the galleries open on Nov. 11, she said in a voice-mail message from Toronto.

All of the museum's galleries will be ready for the unofficial opening on Remembrance Day, Hughes pledged. "All systems go. We're very confident," he said.

The museum has yet to appoint an interim president and CEO to take over from Murray on Nov. 2. Hughes said the museum will embark on a national search for a new president and CEO capable of elevating the content and maximizing both revenue potential and educational opportunities.

 

-- with files from Dan Lett

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 5:42 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video

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