Submission title

Disputed History








Geoff Leo


For more than three decades, renowned scholar and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond built a prominent career while claiming to be a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry. Highly successful and honoured as an Indigenous person, she claimed she was born and raised in a dysfunctional and abusive home on a Manitoba reserve. Geoff Leo’s in-depth CBC investigation cast doubt on her ancestry and many of her claimed accomplishments. CBC found that her parents were European, and she had actually grown up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, not on a northern reserve. In addition, CBC uncovered multiple significant inaccuracies in her academic claims. Sarah Eaton, a leading academic integrity expert, called this series “a watershed moment for Canadian higher education,” as all 11 universities that granted Turpel-Lafond honorary doctorates committed to reviewing her status. Three rescinded honourary degrees awarded to Turpel-Lafond, and she has so far voluntarily returned degrees conferred by two post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. “It would not surprise me if every single university in Canada that grants honorary degrees conducts a complete review of their processes around how they confer such degrees as a result of Mr. Leo’s coverage of this case,” Eaton said. In light of this story, the Indigenous Women’s collective has called on the Governor General to revoke Turpel-Lafond’s 2021 Order of Canada.