Turpel Lafond stripped of honorary degree over claims of Indigenous heritage

REGINA — The University of Regina says it has rescinded the honorary doctor of laws degree it awarded to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in 2003 as she faces questions about her Indigenous heritage.

The University was the first to revoke a degree granted to Turpel-Lafond, although she returned honorary degrees to two post-secondary institutions in British Columbia earlier this year.

Those schools and several others across Canada have confirmed they were reviewing honorary degrees conferred on Turpel-Lafond after a CBC investigation into her claim of Cree ancestry.

A statement from the University of Regina says it acted after considering the available evidence as well as “a number of other stated credentials and academic achievements (that) have been shown to be untrue.”

The university says it responded to calls from the Indigenous Women’s Collective to revoke the degree and a separate statement from the collective urges the Governor General to review and terminate Turpel-Lafond’s Order of Canada.

Turpel-Lafond is a former judge, law professor and B.C. representative for children and youth, but her claims of Cree heritage have been under scrutiny since last fall and the University of B.C. announced in December that she no longer worked there.

The University of Regina said it recognizes Turpel-Lafond has been a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and child welfare, but said it had a responsibility to act.

“Her accomplishments are outweighed by the harm inflicted upon Indigenous academics, peoples and communities when non-Indigenous people misrepresent their Indigenous ancestry,” said the statement issued Monday.

The motion to revoke the honorary degree was passed by the University Senate on Feb. 10 and the statement said Turpel-Lafond had been advised.

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