The University of Regina has stripped Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond of her honorary doctorate
The University of Regina said it stripped Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond of her honorary doctorate in 2003.
Last fall, CBC published a story that cast doubt on Turpel-Lafonds’ claim of Indigenous ancestry. As a result of this 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.
The U of R said Friday the university’s Senate had accepted a motion to annul its degree.
The university justified the decision in a public statement.
“While the University recognizes that Turpel-Lafond was a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and child welfare, her achievements are outweighed by the damage done to Indigenous academics, peoples and communities when non-Indigenous people misrepresent their Indigenous ancestry.” , the statement said .
The university says it made the decision after consultation and a review of media-released evidence related to its parentage claims, and “a number of other stated credentials and academic achievements have been shown to be untrue.”
Turpel-Lafond has received honorary degrees from eleven Canadian universities. All of them have said they are considering demands by the Indigenous women collective to have these honors revoked.
In recent weeks, Turpel-Lafond has voluntarily returned honorary degrees to Vancouver Island University and Royal Roads University.
The U of R’s decision marks the first time a university has canceled a degree. The university said it informed Turpel-Lafond of its decision last week.
In a statement, 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 VIU and RRU’s decisions to accept the awards’ voluntary return were a mistake because they “failed to preserve academic integrity by holding Ms Turpel-Lafond accountable for her actions”.
The group urged the other eight universities that have committed to reviewing this matter to “stay the course, complete the investigations, refuse to return their awards and decide whether or not to revoke based on their investigations and procedures.” “.
The group is now calling 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.