Chancellor wants Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degree revoked
Former BC Children and Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was faced with questions about her claim to be a contract Indian of Cree descent and her academic credentials
University of Victoria Chancellor Marion Buller says if Thompson Rivers University doesn’t revoke Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorate in law degree, she will consider returning hers.
Turpel-Lafond, the former BC Children and Youth Representative, was recently faced with questions about her claim to be a contract Indian of Cree descent and her academic credentials.
She could not be reached on Friday.
Thompson Rivers University said in a statement Friday that it is reviewing Turpel-Lafonds’ honorary doctorate, which was awarded in 2009. Buller received her honorary doctorate from the university last year.
“Following recent public questions regarding Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafonds’ biography and resume — and in accordance with TRU’s policy on awarding honorary degrees — the honorary degree awarded to Turpel-Lafond by TRU in 2009 is under review,” it said.
Requests to revoke honorary degrees are reviewed by the honors and awards committee, the Senate, the office of the president and the university’s board of governors, the university said.
“We pledge that these consultations will be careful, thorough and respectful,” the statement said, adding that the university’s governing bodies will seek the advice of local Indigenous leaders, as well as their Indigenous faculty and others.
Buller made her statement in response to a post on LinkedIn, a social media site, that referenced Turpel-Lafond, writing, “TRU awarded both Mary Ellen and I honorary degrees. If TRU doesn’t cancel her degree, I’ll have to consider returning mine.”
She could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
Buller, who was appointed chancellor of UVic for a three-year term beginning in January this year, was the first Indigenous woman to serve as a judge in a BC provincial court, founded the First Nations Courts of BC and served as chief commissioner into the national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
She is a member of the Mistawasis Nehiyawak, a Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, an Indigenous scholar and advocate for Indigenous issues and rights, UVic said.
Buller earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from UVic.
During her career, Turpel-Lafond has received honorary degrees from several Canadian universities, including Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo and Royal Roads University in Colwood.
Both said last month they are consulting with Indigenous partners about how best to proceed if demands are made for Turpel-Lafond’s financial statements to be overturned.
“Royal Roads is reviewing the concerns raised about Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorate, including consultation with academic and Indigenous colleagues. The process is moving forward,” the university said in a statement on Friday.
A Saskatchewan group called the Indigenous Women’s Collective has called on universities to rescind the honorary degrees awarded to Turpel-Lafond.