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HomeWorld NewsCanada newsMcGill, Carleton universities vote to rescind Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's honorary doctorates

McGill, Carleton universities vote to rescind Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorates

mcgill carleton universities vote to rescind mary ellen turpel lafonds honorary doctorates

Two more universities have revoked the honorary doctor of laws degree bestowed on Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

McGill University told CBC News the university’s senate voted to revoke the honorary degree awarded to her in 2014. In a public statement on the same day, Carleton University said the university’s senate passed a motion to rescind her degree awarded to her in 2019.

Last fall, CBC published a story casting doubt on Turpel-Lafond’s claim to Indigenous ancestry. In the wake of that story, a group called the Indigenous Women’s Collective and others across the country called on all universities that had granted her an honorary doctorate to revoke them. 

McGill says the university informed Turpel-Lafond of its decision, which was based on a recommendation by the university’s honorary degrees and convocations committee following the completion of a review process by an ad hoc subcommittee. 

“Based on its work, the subcommittee found evidence calling into question the validity of information about academic credentials and accomplishments appearing on Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s curriculum vitae. It also recognized that her claims about being a Treaty Indian were the subject of important questions.,” McGill said in an email to CBC.

In a public statement, Carleton University explained its decision. 

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

“The evidence that emerged about disputed claims to both Indigenous identity and academic credentials/accolades was deemed to outweigh the accomplishments that originally warranted granting the degree.”

WATCH| In 2014, Turpel-Lafond took centre stage at the McGill Law School commencement ceremony to receive her eighth honorary doctor of laws degree:

Turpel-Lafond has been granted honorary degrees from 11 Canadian universities. All of them have said they are weighing calls from the Indigenous Women’s Collective to revoke those honours. 

Earlier this month, the University of Regina said it had revoked the honorary doctor of laws degree it bestowed on Turpel-Lafond in 2003. The U of R’s decision marked the first time a university had rescinded a degree.

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

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

“We applaud the University of Regina for their courage and commitment to upholding academic integrity, denouncing Indigenous identity fraud, and conducting itself in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation,” the statement said. 

The group said the decisions by the two universities on Vancouver Island to accept the voluntary return of the awards was a mistake because it “did not uphold academic integrity by making Ms. Turpel-Lafond accountable for her actions.” 

The group has called on Canada’s Governor General to revoke the Order of Canada that was granted to Turpel-Lafond in December 2021. 

“In light of Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s ongoing refusal to provide reasonable explanations for refuted claims to indigeneity, we call upon the Governor General of Canada to denounce Indigenous identity theft and terminate the Order of Canada awarded to Ms. Turpel-Lafond,” the statement says. 

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