BC Civil Liberties Association takes back award from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

‘Her lack of accountability or remorse on these matters, have been shocking and disturbing,’ says association statement

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Lawyer Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafonde Woodward and Company photo

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) announced Thursday it’s stripping Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond of its highest, long-standing award.

The award was the Reg Robson award, which BCCLA said honours substantial career contributions to the cause of civil liberties in British Columbia and Canada.

“In awarding Dr. Turpel-Lafond with BCCLA’s most prestigious and long-standing award, the Board had believed in Dr. Turpel-Lafond’s public representations regarding her professional accomplishments, as well as her Indigenous ancestry,” said a statement by the organization.

According to the BCCLA, the organization believed that Turpel-Lafond’s Cree ancestry played an essential role in informing her work on human rights. But a CBC investigation questioned her background.

“Her lack of accountability or remorse on these matters, have been shocking and disturbing,” said the statement.

The organization said that Turpel-Lafond has failed to provide transparency or accountability to her previous claims, which include comments to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Inquiry that she was the first treaty Indian appointed to the Court of Saskatchewan in 1998.

Reporting from the CBC also shows that despite her public claims to have received a QC designation, which is granted by the provincial government to accomplished lawyers, there is no record of her having received that distinction.

As APTN News previously reported, retired senator Lillian Dyck said that universities need to examine how they bestow honourary degrees, which lend integrity to Indigenous identity claims.

Turpel-Lafond has returned two degrees granted to her by B.C institutions and McGill University, Carleton University and the University of Regina have all rescinded honourary degrees awarded to her.

Jean Teillet, a Vancouver-based lawyer created a report for the University of Saskatchewan last year that explored the issue of Indigenous identity fraud.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Teillet spoke about Turpel-Lafond and other people whose Indigenous status has been called into question.

“It is no accident that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and Carrie Bourassa just pulled out all these tropes about trauma and addictions and violence in the family,” she said, referring latterly to a former health professor who resigned from the University of Saskatchewan amid questions about her Indigenous identity last year.

“That’s what Canadians think about Indigenous people, so they play us, right?”

What Canadians should be asking, Teillet said, is “why do (we) buy into it?”

In addition to reliance on stereotypes, Teillet’s report said red flags include vague claims, family secrets, shifting or conflicting stories, or reliance on DNA testing to find some kind of Indigenous ancestry dating back several hundred years ago.


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