Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks out after award revoked over heritage claims

VANCOUVER — Former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she's satisfied in her "past work, identity and self-worth" after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association revoked an award because it believed she falsified her claims of Indigenous identity.

Turpel-Lafond says in her most expansive remarks since questions about her heritage were raised last year that it's "liberating" to be freed of honours.

She says in an email she has "no emotional attachment to titles," but she's surprised that the association rescinded the 2020 Reg Robson Award without "basic fairness," such as allowing her an opportunity to be heard.

The former law professor and B.C. representative for children and youth, whose claim of Cree heritage was questioned by a CBC report last October, says "trial by media is rampant," and it's how "wrongful convictions and injustice" happen.

The civil liberties association says information came to light demonstrating that, in its board's view, Turpel-Lafond had falsified her heritage claim, and certain professional and academic accomplishments had also been disproven or called into question.

Its statement says it must follow the lead of Indigenous scholars, leaders and organizations, including the Indigenous Women's Collective, which is demanding that all honorary degrees and awards conferred on her be revoked.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March, 9, 2023.

The Canadian Press