Turpel-Lafond returns second honorary degree after being told of identity review

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VICTORIA — Royal Roads University says it has accepted the return of an honorary doctorate from retired judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who was the subject of a CBC investigation about her claims of Indigenous heritage last fall. 

A statement from the university in Victoria says it contacted Turpel-Lafond after initiating a review in response to public concerns.

The statement says Turpel-Lafond responded by voluntarily returning the degree, which has been cancelled by the university. 

It says the school’s review process included consultation with Indigenous and academic colleagues and its advisory committee on honours and awards. 

It’s the second honorary degree that Turpel-Lafond has relinquished, after Vancouver Island University made a similar announcement last month.

A number of other schools have confirmed they are looking into honorary degrees conferred on her, including the University of Regina along with Carleton, McGill, Brock, Mount Saint Vincent and St. Thomas universities.

Turpel-Lafond previously told the CBC that while she was growing up she didn’t question the biological parentage of her father, who she has said was Cree.

She served as British Columbia’s representative for children and youth and, until December, she was a tenured law professor at the University of B.C.

Until last year, she also served as the academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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