SFU accepts return of honorary degree from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

March 30, 2023

SFU has accepted the return of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws awarded to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in 2016.

We received written requests from a number of individuals and groups asking that the university consider revoking Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degree. The Senate Committee on University Honours reviewed the request and determined there were appropriate grounds to proceed.

Following the procedures for revoking an honorary degree, Turpel-Lafond was informed by the university that revocation was under consideration. She was provided an opportunity to either return the degree voluntarily or to make representations on the issues at hand. At that time, Turpel-Lafond declined to make any such representations and opted to return the degree. The Senate Committee on University Honours has accepted the returned degree on behalf of the university in keeping with its policy. 

The requests to review Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degree noted the importance of Indigenous identity and alleged false claims of Indigenous ancestry, which harm Indigenous Peoples. This has been a matter of much discussion in the public. SFU acknowledges the importance of Indigenous identity and the need to do more to better protect Indigenous students, staff and faculty and SFU from the impacts of fraudulent claims to Indigenous identity and ensure any benefits intended for Indigenous members go to Indigenous persons. Determining and honouring Indigenous identity is one way the university can move toward Reconciliation. Work on this procedure is well underway now – led by Indigenous people and in consultation with Indigenous communities – and will result in recommendations before the end of this year. 

Joy Johnson
Pronouns: she, her, hers
President and Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser University