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Royal B.C. Museum CEO resigns; says 'no longer best suited to the position'

The museum announced Alicia Dubois’ resignation in a statement Friday afternoon
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Royal B.C. Museum CEO Alicia Dubois takes the media on a tour of Old Town in February. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The CEO of the Royal ­British Columbia Museum has resigned 16 months after taking on the job, citing personal and professional reasons.

The museum announced Alicia Dubois’ resignation in a statement Friday afternoon after overseeing a tumultuous period for the museum. Its board of directors is looking to appoint an interim CEO.

No reason was initially given for Dubois’ departure, but a statement from Royal B.C. Museum chair Leslie Brown on Saturday clarified some points about Dubois’ reasons for leaving.

“Having laid a strong foundation with the province and partners for the museum’s future, the CEO feels she is no longer best suited to the position,” said Brown.

“The CEO also cited personal reasons relating to family,” Brown said in her statement.

Late Friday, Brown expressed gratitude to Dubois for her efforts ­overseeing work on the museum’s new collections and research building, ­advancing “organizational cultural ­transformation,” and engaging with communities about the future of the museum.

Dubois was named the ­museum’s chief executive officer in February of last year, replacing then-acting CEO Dan Muzyka. At the time, Carole James, a member of the museum’s board of directors, said the board was impressed with Dubois’ ­intercultural expertise and experience in “change management” within large, complex organizations.

Dubois, a lawyer, came under intense criticism last year, however, for the closure of some of the museum’s most popular exhibits on the third floor, including Old Town, in an effort to “decolonize” the museum and include more voices from B.C.’s history.

In May 2022, with then-premier John Horgan, Dubois announced plans for a $789-million replacement building on the museum site, but the plan was scuttled a few months later by Horgan after a massive public pushback.

Later that year, Dubois launched B.C.-wide sessions to collect feedback from the public and First Nations ­communities to redesign the current ­museum’s displays in a more inclusive manner, but sessions outside Victoria rarely attracted above 30 attendees. A public consultation in Prince George on March 10 drew only a single attendee beyond the city’s mayor.

The province gave the museum $1.2 million for the engagement process, but Brown noted Saturday those funds are not being used to ­reopen the Old Town exhibits on July 29. The First Peoples Gallery on the third floor remains closed, and is still being used for engagement meetings with First Nations.

“I know people miss it, are passionate about it and want access to it. We have heard you,” Tourism Minister Lana Popham said on May 10 of the plans to reopen Old Town.

In response to a request for comment on Dubois’ departure, a spokeswoman for Popham said Friday the minister’s office was referring media inquiries to Brown.

Brown said Saturday the former CEO, museum executive and the provincial government were “pleased with the direction and progress made at the museum in recent months and excited about the work being done at the museum, and about its bright future.

“There is a lot of positive momentum at the museum with four new exhibitions now open, Old Town reopening, and the new Collections and Research Building breaking ground in Colwood this fall,” said Brown.

The museum opened four significant exhibits this spring — most of which had been in planning for years: Dinosaurs of B.C. (April 17), Sacred Journey (May 5), Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia (June 2), and SUE: The T. rex Experience (June 16).

In the announcement of Old Town’s reopening, Dubois said the museum is “committed to increasing inclusivity and ­accessibility to the museum through extensive engagement and co-creation of exhibits with communities, and inviting ­people back into this space allows further opportunities to do that.”

Jack Lohman, Dubois’ ­predecessor at the museum, resigned in 2021 after a report by a diversity and inclusion consultant deemed the institution a “dysfunctional and toxic workplace, ­characterized by a culture of fear and ­distrust.”

The third-party ­investigation occurred after Lucy Bell, the museum’s former head of ­Indigenous collections and ­repatriation, resigned in 2020, citing a workplace culture of racism and anti-Indigeneity in her farewell speech.

Prior to her appointment at the Royal B.C. Museum, Dubois served as the chief executive for the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation in Calgary.

Dubois was a trustee for the Royal Ontario Museum for three years and held senior executive positions at a number of prominent Canadian organizations, including national director of Indigenous financial services and compliance legal counsel for Scotia Bank, and vice-president of Indigenous markets for CIBC.

mjlo@timescolonist.com

DKloster@timescolonist.com

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