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Vancouver Island University accepts return of honorary degree from Turpel-Lafond

University says it is in the process of developing an Indigenous identity policy
VIU advised that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is returning an honorary degree she received from the university 10 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond no longer holds a Vancouver Island University degree.

She has informed the university that she is giving back an honorary doctorate of laws conferred on her in 2013, according to a press release from VIU.

The university advised Turpel-Lafond “that it would be moving forward with a process” regarding her honorary degree after members of the VIU community as well as the Indigenous Women’s Collective asked for a review into her “eligibility to hold VIU’s highest honour.”

Turpel-Lafond, a scholar and former judge, was B.C.’s representative for children and youths and recently reported on racism in B.C.’s health-care system.

A CBC News investigation this past fall questioned her stated Indigenous ancestry, though she has maintained that she has Cree heritage.

READ ALSO: UBC to review hiring process of Indigenous scholars amid missteps on Turpel-Lafond

VIU, in its press release, condemned Indigenous identity fraud and said it is in the process of developing and implementing an Indigenous identity policy.

“False claims of Indigenous ancestry cause harm to Indigenous peoples,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU president and vice-chancellor, in the release “This is why VIU’s future policy on Indigenous identity will honour the contributions of Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community leaders and will include safeguards to confirm Indigenous identity going forward.”

The university noted that it will also be reviewing its policy and procedure for nominating, awarding and rescinding honorary degrees.

READ ALSO: Hope fills VIU graduates

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