Niagara-on-the-Lake man one of eight charged in case of allegedly forged art


Published March 3, 2023 at 2:26 pm

A Niagara-on-the-Lake man was one of eight people charged in a massive case that alleges over 1,000 pieces of art purported to be the work of the late Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau were forgeries that were sold knowingly to the public.

While accusations of Morrisseau forgeries had been bandied about since 2007 (the year of his death), there was no investigation into the allegations until 2020.

Yesterday (March 1), the OPP and Thunder Bay Police announced that eight men are facing 40 charges after they seized more than 1,000 allegedly fraudulent paintings, prints and other artworks.

Police said, “Some of these paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars to unsuspecting members of the public who had no reason to believe they weren’t genuine.”

Morrisseau – also known as Copper Thunderbird – was a prolific Indigenous artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation.

“Norval Morrisseau was a prominent artist of the Thunder Bay region and to profit off of his name is not only unethical, but also illegal. Together with the Ontario Provincial Police, I congratulate all involved for the successful resolution of such an important investigation,” said Thunder Bay Police Chief Dan Taddeo.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique added, “It was important for the OPP and the Thunder Bay Police Service to identify and hold accountable those who allegedly profited illegally by forging Norval Morrisseau’s artwork. The results of this investigation are a testament to the commitment and competence of the investigators and the collaboration of policing partners.”

While five of the eight charged were from the Thunder Bay area, Jeffrey Gordon Cowan, 47, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, faces charges of uttering forged documents, defrauding the public over $5,000 and four counts of fraud over $5,000.

Here is today’s (March 3) press conference from the OPP Headquarters in Orillia, where the charges were discussed with the media.