McGill and Carleton Universities vote to revoke Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorate

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond received her 12th honorary doctorate during a ceremony in November 2019 at Carleton University in Ottawa.  (Federation HSS/YouTube - photo credit)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond received her 12th honorary doctorate during a ceremony in November 2019 at Carleton University in Ottawa. (Federation HSS/YouTube – photo credit)

Two other universities have stripped Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond of honorary doctorates.

McGill University told CBC News the university’s Senate voted to revoke the honorary degree awarded to her in 2014. In a public statement the same day, Carleton University said the university’s Senate had accepted a motion to revoke its 2019 title.

Last fall, CBC published a story that cast doubt on Turpel-Lafonds’ claim of Indigenous ancestry. Following that story, a group called the Indigenous Women’s Collective and others across the country called on all universities that had awarded her honorary degrees to revoke them.

According to McGill, the University informed Turpel-Lafond of its decision, which was based on a recommendation from the university’s Committee on Honorary Degrees and Calls after the completion of a review process by an ad hoc subcommittee.

“Based on its work, the subcommittee found evidence questioning the validity of information about academic credentials and achievements in Ms. Turpel-Lafonds’ resume. He also acknowledged that her claims of being a contract Indian were the subject of important questions. ‘ McGill said in an email to CBC.

In a public statement, Carleton University justified its decision.

“The recommendation of the Senate Honorary Diploma Committee followed a process that included consultations with the university’s Indigenous Education Council and a careful review of all publicly available information,” the statement said.

“The evidence that has emerged about disputed claims to both Indigenous identity and academic credentials/awards were deemed to be overriding achievements that originally justified the award of the degree.”

WATCH| In 2014, Turpel-Lafond was the focus of McGill Law School’s inaugural ceremony to receive its eighth honorary Doctor of Laws degree:

Turpel-Lafond has received honorary doctorates from 11 Canadian universities. All of them have said they are considering demands by the Indigenous women collective to have these honors revoked.

Earlier this month, the University of Regina announced that it had revoked Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorate in 2003. The U of R’s decision marked the first time a university had revoked a degree.

Turpel-Lafond has also voluntarily returned honorary degrees from Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC and Royal Roads University in Victoria.

In a statement earlier this month, the Indigenous Women’s Collective praised the U of R’s “determined action.”

“We applaud the University of Regina for their courage and commitment to upholding academic integrity, denouncing Indigenous identity fraud, and acting in a spirit of truth and reconciliation,” the statement said.

The group said the decision by the two Vancouver Island universities to accept the awards’ voluntary return was a mistake because they “failed to preserve academic integrity by holding Ms. Turpel-Lafond accountable for her actions.” .

The group has called on Canada’s governor-general to revoke the Order of Canada awarded to Turpel-Lafond in December 2021.

“In light of Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s continued refusal to provide reasonable explanations for refuted claims of indigenousness, we call on the Governor General of Canada to denounce Indigenous identity theft and end the Order of Canada bestowed on Ms. Turpel-Lafond,” said the statement says.


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