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Thunder Bay man charged in Norval Morrisseau art fraud investigation expected to take a plea

One of eight people charged in the Norval Morrisseau art forgery case is expected to take a plea Monday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Police laid more than 40 charges against eight people this past March after a years-long investigation into the forgery of the famous Anishinaabe artist’s work.

Morrisseau, who died in 2007 at age 75, was a renowned Anishinaabe artist from the Ojibway Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation in northwestern Ontario. He’s known as the founder of the Woodlands School of art and his work has been exhibited in galleries across Canada, including at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Gary Lamont is set to appear in court today, according to court documents posted online. During the investigation, police obtained a warrant to search Lamont’s home, where they began seizing paintings, according to Thunder Bay Police Service Det. Sgt. Jason Rybak, who laid out the police’s case in March. 

A close-up of a multi-coloured painting.
This work by famous Woodlands arist Norval Morrisseau is entitled ‘Androgyny’. More than 1,000 fake Morrisseau paintings were seized as a result of a years-long investigation into a massive art forgery ring earlier this year. (Estate of Norval Morrisseau)

The Ontario Provincial Police and Thunder Bay Police Service collaborated on the investigation, which began in 2019. A significant lead for police came from the 2019 documentary film about the forgery of Morrisseau’s art, There Are No Fakes involving Kevin Hearn, a member of The Barenaked Ladies. 

Others charged in the case are David John Voss, Diane Marie Champagne, Linda Joy Tkachyk and Benjamin Paul Morrisseau, all of Thunder Bay.

Also charged are Jeffrey Gordon Cowan of Niagara-on-the-Lake, James White of Essa Township and David P. Bremner of Locust Hill.

Police said the eight accused were part of three distinct, yet intertwined groups that created the fraudulent artwork. The first group was launched in 1996 and operated in Thunder Bay like an assembly line. 

Another group started in 2002, and brought in talented Indigenous artists to create the paintings. Finally, a third group began operating in southern Ontario in 2008.

The three groups traded paintings back and forth, and two of the accused were involved in the distribution of paintings by all three groups.

The fraud also included creating fake certificates of authenticity, police said.