Turpel-Lafond returns honorary degree to another B.C. university after internal review
Another British Columbia university has taken back the honorary degree it bestowed on retired judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond after an investigation raised doubts about her claims of Indigenous heritage.
Royal Roads University announced Tuesday it accepted the return of the honorary doctorate of laws it awarded Turpel-Lafond in 2016.
"Royal Roads initiated a review process following public concerns raised over the degree," said the university in a statement.
"The university contacted Turpel-Lafond during the review process, which also included consultation with Indigenous and academic colleagues as well as engagement of the university’s advisory committee on honours and awards," the school added.
"Turpel-Lafond responded by voluntarily relinquishing the degree, and the Royal Roads board of governors has accordingly cancelled the degree."
Turpel-Lafond, who served as B.C.'s first representative for children and youth and who was selected as an independent investigator into anti-Indigenous racism in the province's health-care system, returned an honorary doctorate from Vancouver Island University last month.
The University of British Columbia, where Turpel-Lafond had been a tenured law professor, announced she no longer worked there as of Dec. 16.
"False claims of Indigenous ancestry cause harm to Indigenous peoples," said VIU president and vice-chancellor Deborah Saucier in a statement that noted the school would develop an identity policy to confirm Indigenous heritage going forward.
Royal Roads acknowledged the "harm caused to Indigenous people and communities by controversies such as these" on Tuesday and said it would similarly develop "policies and processes to support Indigenous students, faculty, and staff" in the future.
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