Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond retires from UBC

The lawyer, whose claims regarding her Indigenous identity were questioned by a CBC investigation last year, was a tenured professor at the Allard School of Law until Dec. 16

Lawyer Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a tenured professor at the University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law and the former academic director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, is no longer with the university in any capacity.

In an emailed response to BIV, Turpel-Lafond said she retired from her position as a full-time tenured professor at the end of last year. A UBC spokesperson confirmed that her tenure ended Dec. 16 – approximately two months after an investigation by CBC raised questions about her Indigenous identity.

In an email to BIV, director of university affairs Matthew Ramsey said the university had no additional comment.

In October 2022, CBC reported that Turpel-Lafond’s claims about her treaty Indian status and Cree ancestry were “inconsistent with publicly available documents.”

In a response released on Twitter, Turpel-Lafond described herself as a person “of Cree, Scottish and English heritage.” She declined to share personal records with media.

Turpel-Lafond was appointed B.C.’s first representative for children and youth in 2006, and served in the role for over a decade. She was also appointed by government in 2020 to investigate Indigenous-specific racism in B.C.’s health-care system.

She served as the academic director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre since its inception in 2018, until June of last year. She was re-appointed for a second term that began June 1, 2021 and ended June 30, 2022.

According to UBC, the search for a new academic director began shortly after. The university announced an interim academic director – Métis scholar Tricia Logan – in November 2022.

At the time of writing, Turpel-Lafond’s Allard School of Law biography page returns an error.

She told BIV that she practises law on a part-time basis as a sole practitioner. She was previously senior associate counsel at Woodward & Co. LLP, a leading Indigenous law firm based in Victoria, until May 2022.

Thompson Rivers University recently stated that it is reviewing the honorary degree it awarded Turpel-Lafond in 2009.

At the time, she was recognized for advancing equity, diversity and justice in law, and for breaking ground for Indigenous women in the field.