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Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who faced controversy over claims to Indigenous ancestry, withdraws from Order of Canada

Prominent scholar and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been dropped from the Order of Canada.

The former judge faced controversy over her claims to Indigenous ancestry

A woman with short blond hair and glasses.

Prominent scholar and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been dropped from the Order of Canada.

In a notice in Saturday's Canada Gazette, Rideau Hall announced that, in response to Turpel-Lafond's own request, her membership in the Order of Canada has been terminated. That request was subsequently approved by Governor General Mary Simon through an ordinance signed on Sept. 26, 2023.

The termination takes effect Saturday.

Turpel-Lafond was plunged into controversy in October 2022 after an investigation by CBC News raised questions about her claims to indigenous ancestry.

Responding by text to CBC News, Turpel-Lafond said she returned the Order of Canada to avoid harassment.

"I returned it because I don't want to be harassed by people who seem to make it their thing to kick others down," she wrote. "Life is too precious to give haters a seat at my table."

When the Governor General announced Turpel-Lafond's appointment to the Order of Canada in December 2021, the news release said she was being honored "for her ongoing commitment to improving the child welfare system and supports for Indigenous people in British Columbia."

Turpel-Lafond was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

On Friday, those two honours were still listed in Rideau Hall's honours database, but the Order of Canada was not.

The termination of Turpel-Lafond's appointment to the Order of Canada is the latest in a series of similar cancellations — many of them at Turpel-Lafond's own request.

In February, the University of Regina rescinded the honorary doctorate it had awarded her.

"While the university recognizes that Turpel-Lafond has been a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and child welfare, her accomplishments are outweighed by the harm inflicted upon Indigenous academics, peoples and communities when non-Indigenous people misrepresent their Indigenous ancestry," the university said in a media statement.

In March, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association rescinded the Reg Robson award it gave Turpel-Lafond in 2020. In a statement, it said the association had believed in her "public representations regarding her professional accomplishments, as well as her Indigenous ancestry."

"Information has since come to BCCLA's attention that demonstrates, in our view, that Dr. Turpel-Lafond falsified her claims to Cree ancestry," the association wrote. "Furthermore, certain professional and academic accomplishments claimed by Dr. Turpel-Lafond have been disproven or called into question, all of which, in our view, erode her professional integrity."

Turpel-Lafond has voluntarily returned honorary degrees she received from a number of universities, including Vancouver Island University, Royal Roads, Brock University and St. Thomas University in Fredericton.


Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

With files from Sam Samson

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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