Education (6-12): Current Problems

Indigenous Identity

January 3, 2023

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond no longer employed by UBC

University won’t say why she is gone

From 2018 until 2022, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was the director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. (

CBC News: High-profile professor and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is no longer employed at the University of British Columbia (UBC), according to an official with the institution. 

The university says that as of Dec.16, Turpel-Lafond is no longer a professor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law. 

When asked why, a spokesperson said, “I’m afraid I cannot provide those details due to privacy law.” 

Last fall, Turpel-Lafond was the subject of a CBC investigation into her claims of Indigenous ancestry. For decades she had said she was a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry, but CBC found no evidence of that. All documentation indicated she was of European descent.

CBC also reported that she had made inaccurate public claims about her academic accomplishments. 

From 2018 until mid-2022, Turpel Lafond served as the director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC). She left that role in June but remained a professor in UBC’s school of law. 

In a statement issued to the Globe and Mail on Oct. 12, the day CBC’s story broke, UBC offered public support for Turpel-Lafond, praising her work as the director of the IRSHDC, acknowledging her “deep connections with Indigenous peoples across Canada.” 

The university added that she was not hired because of her Indigenous ancestry claims. 

“Indigenous identity was not a criterion,” a spokesperson said. “[Turpel-Lafond’s] identity is her own and the university is not going to comment on it.” 

In the wake of the story, a group called the Indigenous Women’s Collective issued a statement, saying “we are deeply troubled that First Nations professionals, politicians and university leaders have been too swift to publicly defend an individual claiming to hold Treaty Indian status and Indigeneity, when in fact there is no verifiable evidence to support that claim.” 

The group called on 11 Canadian universities to revoke the honorary doctorates they had given her. All of those institutions say they are taking the request seriously and are examining the matter. 

CBC asked Turpel-Lafond for comment, but she had not replied by time of publication.


Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo is a Michener Award nominated investigative journalist and a Canadian Screen Award winning documentary producer and director. He has been covering Saskatchewan stories since 2001. Email Geoff at

March 9, 2023


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

The Globe and Mail – Canadian Press: 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 its board members believed she falsified her claims of Indigenous identity.

In her most expansive recent remarks since a CBC investigation last fall raised questions about her claim of Cree heritage, Turpel-Lafond said it’s “liberating” to be freed of honours because it permits her to “focus on what really matters” in her life. She has “no emotional attachment to titles, honours or accolades,” she said Thursday by e-mail in response to a request for comment by The Canadian Press.

But Turpel-Lafond said she was surprised the association rescinded the 2020 Reg Robson Award without “basic fairness,” such as allowing her an opportunity to be heard. “Trial by media is rampant, can be unbalanced and cause harm,” said the former law professor and B.C. representative for children and youth.

“This is precisely how wrongful convictions and injustice happens – take a position based on what someone else suggests while never delving deeper into matters to determine the truth.”

She used an Indigenous name, aki-kwe, in her e-mail signature, as well as her English name.

The civil liberties association issued a statement Thursday saying its board had believed Turpel-Lafond’s representations about her heritage when granting the award. Indeed, they believed her ancestry “played an essential role in informing her professional roles, her position in the community, and her work to advance human rights on behalf of Indigenous Peoples and advocacy organizations,” it said.

But information had come to light demonstrating that, in its board’s view, Turpel-Lafond had falsified her claim of Cree heritage, while certain professional and academic accomplishments had also been disproven or called into question.

Her professional integrity has been eroded, it said, adding Turpel-Lafond had yet to publicly account for the allegations about her heritage and other claims, including that she was recognized with a Queen’s counsel designation in Saskatchewan. Her actions have taken opportunities and recognition away from Indigenous women and played a part in “gravely undermining” public confidence in the legal profession, it said.

The association 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, it said. McGill University, Carleton University and the University of Regina each rescinded honorary degrees awarded to Turpel-Lafond last month, and she has returned degrees conferred by two B.C. post-secondary institutions after the schools initiated reviews in response to questions and concerns about her claims.

Others have confirmed they are looking into honorary degrees awarded to her, including Brock, Mount Saint Vincent and St. Thomas universities.

In conferring its own award, the civil liberties association recognizes it “contributed to amplifying Turpel-Lafond’s claims and position of influence,” it said. Her actions added to a “widespread pattern of Indigenous identity fraud, and the severe harms” it causes, it said. “Indigenous identity fraud perpetuates colonial violence and assimilation practices, allowing settlers to shape the future for Indigenous communities while marginalizing Indigenous voices and weakening self-determination,” it said.

Turpel-Lafond was also appointed to the Order of Canada in 2021.

She previously told the CBC that while she was growing up she didn’t question the biological parentage of her father, who she has said was Cree. “He was Cree, spoke Cree and lived the values of a Cree person,” she said in a statement posted to her Twitter account last October. Her father’s non-Indigenous grandparents had adopted her father, “who they knew to be a Cree child,” she said.

Turpel-Lafond served as British Columbia’s representative for children and youth and, until last December, she was a tenured law professor at the University of B.C. Until last year, she also served as the academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the university.

March 1, 2023


Métis Nation of Ontario votes to boot members with incomplete files

Of 8,270 members who cast ballots, 5,898 voted in favour of removal

Métis Nation of Ontario President Margaret Froh says the MNO will ‘move forward on this issue.’ (Métis Nation of Ontario)

CBC: The Métis Nation of Ontario has voted to boot 5,400 members whose files lack hard evidence of a Métis connection.

The MNO announced the results of a province-wide plebiscite in a news release on Wednesday, saying a clear majority voted to remove members with incomplete files, meaning they lack a documented link to a Métis ancestor, from the registry.

The vote saw 8,270 people out of an eligible electorate of 27,805 cast ballots. Of those, 71 per cent, or 5,898, voted in favour of removal, which the release called a significant turnout that more than doubled historic turnout for MNO elections. 

“The results are clear that MNO citizens want to ensure that the MNO can verify that all of its citizens are Métis rights-holders,” MNO President Froh said in the release. “We will move forward on this basis.”

The release emphasized that no one loses membership immediately because of the vote. Instead, Froh is mandated to call a special assembly to decide what comes next. The release promised that an assembly to amend bylaws and registry policy will be called but didn’t indicate when.

“Although the results of the plebiscite are clear, the MNO wants to acknowledge how sensitive of an issue this is for many,” added the MNO’s chair Hank Rowlinson in the release. Any voter with grounds to believe there was a material violation or irregularity with the vote has until March 10 to file an objection for review by the MNO’s chief executive officer.

Concerns date back years

The vote came following years of factionalism and turmoil at the Métis National Council (MNC), fuelled largely but not solely by concerns about Ontario’s registry. These concerns prompted the withdrawal of one of the council’s founding members, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) in 2021.

In 2002, nearly two decades earlier, the national council adopted a definition governing Métis citizenship. In 2004, the council’s five provincial members were directed to re-register their members under the new the definition, but Ontario refused.

The issue simmered for years but boiled over when Clément Chartier, then president of the MNC, delivered a 2018 report recommending the MNO be placed on probation pending an independent probe of its registry.

MNO never submitted to the probe, however, sparking an attempt to suspend Ontario from the council but the suspension bid failed. At a court-ordered MNC assembly in 2021, held shortly after the MMF had withdrawn, Ontario was present as a full member and a new MNC administration was elected. The MNO release said Ontario has been working on “legacy issues” with its registry.

The Métis are a distinct Indigenous group with rights entrenched in Canada’s Constitution, but who can claim those rights is an ongoing battle. As a nation, the Métis emerged through the fusion of First Nations and European cultures in the west of what is now Canada, but eastern groups from Quebec and the Atlantic continue to lay so-far unsuccessful claims to Métis rights.

The MMF accuses Ontario of “opening the floodgates” to easterners who may have Indigenous ancestry but aren’t Métis, while Froh maintains the communities the MNO accepts, but which Manitoba rejects, are legitimate.


Brett Forester, Reporter

Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

February 27, 2023

Métis Nation of Ontario’s future at stake as members vote on fate of thousands

Nearly 1 in 4 members had no evidence of ties to Métis ancestor in 2021 report

Métis Nation of Ontario president Margaret Froh says the plebiscite is about seeking clarity. (Métis Nation of Ontario)

CBC News: The fate of thousands of Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) members with no documented link to a Métis ancestor hangs in the balance as the organization votes this week in a province-wide plebiscite. The vote comes following years of factionalism and turmoil at the Métis National Council (MNC), driven in part by questions about the integrity of the MNO’s membership.

The question before the MNO’s 27,000 or so members is this: Should 5,400 of those members whose files lack hard evidence of a Métis connection be removed from the registry? Whichever way it goes, the members have the organization’s future in their hands as they cast their ballots, said MNO President Margaret Froh.

“This is about Métis self-determination. We need clarity,” Froh said. “One of the very first things that any self-governing Indigenous nation does is clearly identify who it represents.”

If the members vote yes, the MNO can say it represents members with verifiable ties to communities the MNO recognizes as Métis. In that case, Froh would have to call a special assembly to seek direction. No one would lose membership immediately, but the assembly would face the sensitive question of what to do with — and potentially how to dump — the rejected members.

But if they vote no, Froh has another problem on her hands: How can the MNO, as a Métis association, knowingly represent people whose identity it can’t vouch for?  “That’s something we will have to sort out,” Froh said. “It’s an issue that will have to be resolved if we’re going to move forward in advancing our rights assertions.”

Manitoba group slams ‘pan-Indigenous agenda’

Debates about Métis identity turned Ontario into a battleground in recent years, with both First Nations and other Métis groups questioning the MNO’s registry.

The Métis are a distinct Indigenous people that emerged through the fusion of First Nations and European cultures in the west of what is now Canada. But groups from eastern regions like Quebec and the Maritimes continue to emerge, laying so-far unsuccessful claims to Métis rights.

A 2021 report commissioned by the MNO showed the majority of its members trace their ancestry to communities whose legitimacy the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), representing the Red River Métis, disputes.

The review showed about 23 per cent — or nearly one in four — MNO members had incomplete files. (Froh said that number is now at 18 per cent.) Less than 4,000 of the MNO’s 24,000 citizens at the time — or about 16 per cent — traced their ancestry to western Canada.

Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand. The MMF left the Métis National Council in 2021 over the MNO’s membership issues. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

MMF leadership for years accused the MNO of “opening the floodgates” to easterners who may have Indigenous ancestry, but aren’t Métis. In an emailed statement to CBC News, the MMF accused the MNO of turning its back on the historic Métis Nation. “The MNO, along with their side clubs, continue to push their pan-Indigenous agenda,” said President David Chartrand, referring to the other provincial branches of the national council.

“The MMF was a founding member of the MNC and that organization’s purpose was served.” The MMF, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Alberta created the national council in 1983. British Columbia and Ontario joined in the 1990s.

The MMF broke from the council in 2021 over the citizenship struggle, after Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta formed an alliance dubbed the tri-council.

Froh said her critics are sharing misinformation.  She points out the MNO led the watershed Powley court case, which sparked the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2003 affirmation of Métis constitutional rights.

The high court also confirmed the existence of a historic Métis community near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in the upper Great Lakes region, more than 1,000 kilometres east of Winnipeg. “There is no doubt as to the credibility of the Métis Nation of Ontario as a Métis government,” she said. “The MNO has been a leader in advancing Métis rights across this country — and we continue to lead.”

The deadline to vote is Feb. 28.


Brett Forester, Reporter

Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.


March 13, 2023


MUN president Vianne Timmons apologizes, takes temporary leave, as Mi’kmaw claims scrutinized

Board of regents striking Indigenous roundtable to discuss issue 

A brown haired woman is looking ahead and smiling.
Memorial University president Vianne Timmons is taking a leave of absence as the university gathers Indigenous leaders to discuss the issue of her statements on Mi’kmaq heritage. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

CBC News: Memorial University president Vianne Timmons is taking a voluntary, six-week paid leave of absence and is apologizing as the university gathers Indigenous leaders to discuss the issue of her statements of Mi’kmaw heritage.

“While I have shared that I am not Mi’kmaw and I do not claim an Indigenous identity, questions about my intentions in identifying my Indigenous ancestry and whether I have benefited from sharing my understanding of my family’s history have sparked important conversations on and beyond our campus,” Timmons wrote in a statement released Monday morning. “I have been reflecting on this feedback from the Indigenous community, and I sincerely regret any hurt or confusion sharing my story may have caused. That was never my intention and I deeply apologize to those I have impacted.

Minutes before Timmons issued a statement through Memorial University’s online Gazette, the university’s governing body sent its own statement indicating it’s convening a roundtable of Indigenous leaders. “While our initial understanding was that president Timmons did not claim Indigenous identity, we have received a lot of feedback from the community,” said board of regents chair Glenn Barnes in the statement .

“We have received important questions about the president’s actions, and we believe we have a responsibility to Indigenous peoples and a fiduciary duty as a board to explore these questions further.”

In an interview Friday with CBC News, Miawpukek First Nation Chief Mi’sel Joe suggested the university gather a roundtable of Indigenous leaders and students. 

Two pedestrians walk near a sign for Memorial University.
Neil Bose, interim provost and academic vice-president, will take on the role of acting president and vice-chancellor. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Speaking with CBC News on Feb. 28, Timmons said she has always made a clear distinction that she never claimed Mi’maw identity, only ancestry. She said she has not benefited from discussing her ancestry or having claimed membership in an unrecognized band in Nova Scotia. Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation is neither recognized by the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq or by the federal government. 

Timmons said she became a member of the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation in Cape Breton after her brother sent in the family’s genealogy, around 2009.  “But then I looked into it on my own and I didn’t feel comfortable identifying as a member of a band that wasn’t official or as a member of a band anyway because I was not raised Mi’kmaw and so I removed it and never referred to it again,” Timmons said.

CBC News found multiple references in professional biographies for Timmons up until 2018, including when she was appointed in 2018 to serve on the independent advisory board for Senate appointments, a non-partisan body that provides the prime minister with recommendations on nominations to the Senate. 

A publicly available copy of Timmons’s CV, last updated in 2016, also listed her membership in the Bras d’Or band. In response to a recent CBC News access-to-information request that asked for the CV Timmons provided when she applied for the president’s job, Memorial University said it had “no records responsive to your request.” The university’s response added that Memorial did not retain any records of applications from the presidential search process, which was handled by a third-party executive search firm.

On Wednesday, after CBC News published a story detailing questions about Timmons’s statements and past membership, the university circulated Timmons’s resumé, saying the board of regents did have a copy, as part of the recommendation and approval process in 2019. That CV does not mention membership in Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation.

Indigenous people asked to lead process

Both Barnes and Timmons said the process must be led by Indigenous people to seek their guidance and knowledge.  “Any action I have taken in sharing my story or promoting Indigenization in my professional roles was always undertaken in a spirit of reconciliation, curiosity and continued learning and respect for Indigenous peoples,” Timmons said. “While this personal process started many years ago, I recognize these actions may be hurtful or cause harm.”

Timmons said she asked that she be allowed to take a temporary step back from her duties as president as the process unfolds.  Neil Bose, interim provost and academic vice-president, will take on the role of acting president and vice-chancellor.

“We must always be willing to learn and commit to doing better, and I appreciate all that you have had to say in this last week,” said Timmons in her statement. “As a proud member of the Memorial community, I remain faithfully and fully committed to continuing to advance our collective efforts to indigenize the university and look forward to the feedback from these important discussions.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Ariana Kelland, Investigative reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John’s. She is working as a member of CBC’s Atlantic Investigative Unit. Email:

November 3, 2022

Report offers guidance for post-secondary efforts on Indigenous citizenship/membership verification

Saskatchewan (USask) is sharing a new independent report that will contribute to the national conversation and inform the university’s continued implementation of policies and practices around this issue.

NationTalk: USask commissioned Jean Teillet, a leading Canadian expert on Indigenous rights, Métis identity, and history, to look into the root causes of the problem, advise on the complexity of Indigenous identity issues, and recommend ways that USask can effectively implement its new policies and processes aimed at detecting and deterring false claims of Indigenous citizenship and identity.

“USask is committed to reconciliation and the process of continuously learning how to better serve Indigenous people and their communities,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff. “We are grateful for Jean Teillet’s work on this report, which will inform and guide us as we strive to implement sound policies and practices to address this complex issue.”

In July, the USask Board of Governors approved a new policy on Indigenous membership/citizenship verification, the result of ground-breaking work by a task force led by Indigenous Elders and leaders. Previously, verification relied on self-identification and had been conducted internally. Now, Indigenous communities will decide what evidence is required when faculty, staff and students apply for positions or scholarships where they could gain a material advantage.

The policy is now in the process of being implemented by a permanent Indigenous-led standing committee. Teillet’s report will be presented to help inform the standing committee leading this implementation plan.

Teillet’s research included an extensive literature review and interviews with 60 USask faculty, staff, and students. She stated that the findings of her 86-page report are applicable not just to USask but to all institutions across Canada that hire and engage Indigenous people.

“Those who falsely claim Indigenous identity for their own material advantage cause significant harm to the academy and Indigenous Peoples,” said Teillet.

She stressed that the solution to the problem is readily apparent: education about Indigenous Peoples. Canadians generally, and universities specifically, have been ignorant about the complexities of Indigenous identity, which has meant there are “few checks and balances to detect Indigenous identity fraud,” she said.

Teillet noted that USask has “embraced the need to work with Indigenous communities and is moving quickly to implement new policies and agreements.” “It is commendable that USask is now requiring evidence to support Indigenous identify claims,” she stated.

However, Teillet suggested that USask employ clear standards and warnings when it comes to handling false claims at the university. “It is hoped that attention to policies and processes will act as a deterrent to individuals contemplating an entrance into the university based on false Indigenous identity,” she stated.

Teillet also urged USask to create a specific complaints process for false claims of Indigenous identity, and recommended that the university take steps to evaluate how the institution’s culture “may be acting to undermine or be non-supportive of its Indigenization Strategy and its Indigenous members.”

Teillet’s full report can be found here.

USask’s efforts to advance Indigenization have been guided by the university’s strategic plan, Truth Telling consultations with Indigenous faculty and staff, the gifting of the ohpahootan |oopahootan Indigenous strategy, and the Indigenous-led deybwewin| taapwaywin| tapwewin policy on membership/citizenship verification.

“Ms. Teillet’s report offers advice on how to build on these strategies and policies, and adds to our university’s continued journey of listening, deliberating and taking transformative action for reconciliation,” said Dr. Airini (PhD), USask provost and vice-president academic. “We thank the deybwewin (Saulteaux)| taapwaywin (Michif)| tapwewin (Cree) policy Standing Committee for leading USask’s critically important efforts in this area.”

Report highlights:

“USask had already begun to take steps to address this issue. Among many other steps, that
included retaining the author as an external and independent investigator to prepare this report. This report, then, is presented while substantial positive changes are already in motion at USask. For example, on August 20, 2021, USask was gifted the first Indigenous strategy that was created exclusively ‘by Indigenous people at a Canadian U15 research institution.’ The strategy was the culmination of work begun in 2018 and represents the collaborative work of the Office of the Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement, and USask’s Indigenous community of students, staff, faculty, and leaders, Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers, and Language Teachers. The strategy embeds principles into USask’s University Plan 2025.”

  • Page 4

“Since 2015 the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has made a great effort to Indigenize the university. The move to Indigenize the university provided incentives for Indigenous people to apply for student placements, scholarships and grants, faculty positions, and staff employment. Unfortunately, as we now know, some applicants seeking to take advantage of these opportunities were making false claims to Indigenous identity.”

  • Page 5

“Indigenous identity fraudsters need to know that USask will ask for evidence to support
an Indigenous identity claim and that USask will verify that evidence. To date fraudsters have
been slipping into the academy because they could, because no one checked, and because no one thought they should check Indigenous identity claims. Sending a clear signal that those days are over will act as a strong deterrent.”

  • Page 68

December 14, 2022

Rescind Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degrees or we’ll return ours, say high-profile Indigenous women

Academic integrity expert says Turpel-Lafond story is a ‘watershed moment for Canadian higher education’

In 2009, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was given an honorary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University. It’s one of 11 such degrees she’s received in her career. (Thompson Rivers University/YouTube)

CBC Investigates: Michelle Good chokes up a little when she talks about the honorary doctorate she received from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in October. The retired Cree lawyer and author of the bestselling book Five Little Indians received the honour for her advocacy on behalf of residential school survivors. 

But Good said that if SFU, located in Burnaby, B.C., does not revoke the honorary degree it granted Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, then Good will be forced to make a painful decision. “I have decided in my heart of hearts that if the decision is to allow her to keep that doctorate, I will return mine,” Good told CBC. “[If] they allow her to continue to carry that honour then it’s not an honour. So I don’t want it.”   

In October, Michelle Good was awarded an honorary doctorate from SFU. (ECU Photography)

The reason, she said, is that recent CBC stories have revealed that Turpel-Lafond has acted dishonourably by not telling the truth about her ancestry and her accomplishments.

When SFU granted Turpel-Lafond an honorary doctorate in 2016, its citation noted that she was a “scholar of Aboriginal descent” who became the “first person of treaty Indian status to be named to the bench in Saskatchewan.” The citation also said she has “a master’s degree in international law from the University of Cambridge.”

CBC’s investigation found no evidence that these claims are true. Genealogical documentation shows all of Turpel-Lafond’s ancestors are of European descent. In addition, all of the documentation and oral testimony uncovered by CBC provide no indication that she is a treaty Indian.

Finally, Turpel-Lafond has admitted she doesn’t have a master’s degree from Cambridge. Instead, she received a diploma.

Good said she wrote to SFU weeks ago, formally requesting the university revoke Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degree.

She said she told them “this woman had deceived the legal profession, the judicial system, multiple universities, governments and primarily indigenous organizations and peoples. And that that person should not be honoured given that kind of conduct.”

She said the university’s chancellor and its president wrote what she describes as a “very positive letter.” In it, they indicated “they didn’t have a policy for how to go about revoking an honorary degree.  And that they were going to develop a policy and then apply it to that case,” she said.

Turpel-Lafond has received honorary doctorates from 11 Canadian universities. A group calling itself the Indigenous Women’s Collective has called on those institutions to revoke those degrees.

On Wednesday, Indigenous Senator Mary Jane McCallum spoke in solidarity with that group, highlighting the harm she says is caused by Indigenous identity fraudsters or “pretendians” (pretend Indians). She called on her colleagues to join in a national conversation.

“If the Senate is committed to reconciliation, we must end the deafening silence surrounding pretendianism,” she said. “We must denounce and renounce such shameful conduct and acknowledge the harm it causes to Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women and children.” 

Marion Buller also considers returning her honorary doctorate

SFU is one of the universities reviewing its honorary doctorate for Turpel-Lafond. Michael McDonald, a member of SFU’s board of governors, weighed in on the topic recently on the social media site LinkedIn.

“As an Indigenous male professional, I am also very troubled and in fact offended by the degree and manner in which Ms. Turpel-Lafond has misrepresented herself as having Indigenous ancestry in the past,” wrote McDonald, a partner in a Vancouver-based law firm.  

BC lawyer Michael McDonald is a member of SFU’s board of governors. (

Turpel-Lafond has claimed to have been born and raised in Norway House, Man., home to a federally recognized First Nation. She has also said her childhood there was marked by poverty, alcoholism and abuse. However, all the evidence CBC has uncovered indicates she wasn’t from Norway House, and was in fact born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ont. 

The SFU citation referenced this troubled childhood, noting that as a judge Turpel-Lafond often encountered “young offenders whose upbringing mirrored her own, she encouraged the justice system to recognize the cycle of poverty, neglect, and abuse Aboriginal youth often suffer.” 

McDonald said Turpel-Lafond’s claims about Norway House are especially troubling to him, because it’s where his mother grew up and remains a member.  He said he and his family “have not heard of Ms. Turpel-Lafond as being connected there.” 

Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond tells CBC’s The Current that she was born in Norway House.

“To appropriate not only the identity but also the pain and suffering of Indigenous Peoples possibly for personal gain and accolades is simply wrong and I find it offensive,” he wrote. “For institutions to bestow honours as a direct result of those misrepresentations of personal harm piles it on even more.” 

In response to McDonald’s post, yet another high profile Indigenous scholar weighed into the discussion. 

Marion Buller, a former B.C. judge who was recently appointed chancellor of the University of Victoria, commented on McDonald’s LinkedIn post, noting both she and Turpel-Lafond received honorary doctorates from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in British Columbia.

Marion Buller began her three-year term as UVIC’s Chancellor in January 2022. The former judge was the chief commissioner for the MMIWG national inquiry. (

Turpel-Lafond received hers in 2009, while Buller was honoured in 2021. 

“If TRU does not rescind [Turpel-Lafond’s] degree, I will have to consider returning mine,” wrote Buller, who was the chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 

On the social media site LinkedIn, Marion Buller weighed in on the controversy surrounding Turpel-Lafond’s honorary doctorates. (

CBC asked Buller for an interview, but she declined. 

“I will be very pleased to speak with you once we know TRU’s decision,” said Buller, who in 1994 was the first First Nations woman to be appointed judge in B.C.

All 11 universities that have granted honorary degrees to Turpel-Lafond have publicly committed to review the matter in some form.

This week, CBC asked for an update. Every university indicated they’re continuing to evaluate the situation.

However, one response stood out due to its specificity.

The University of Regina said it is in the “final stages” of evaluating the status of Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degree and that governance bodies would meet about it in the new year. 

“We expect to have a decision by late February,” a spokesperson said by email.

‘A watershed moment’ for Canadian academia

Sarah Eaton, one of few scholars in Canada who study academic integrity, said the revelations coming out of the Turpel-Lafond story have created “a watershed moment for Canadian higher education.”

She said that for too long, academics in this country have scoffed at the idea that academic dishonesty could be a problem here. 

“Colleagues will often say, ‘Oh, this is hyperbole. This is sensationalist. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in Canada,'” Eaton said. She said CBC’s stories about Turpel-Lafond have “given us pretty compelling evidence that it does.”

Sarah Elaine Eaton is calling for greater federal oversight on companies that allow students to cheat. (Supplied by Clayton MacGillvray)

Over the past few weeks, CBC has revealed the following about Turpel-Lafond’s CV:

  • She claimed to have earned a master’s of international law from Cambridge University. In fact she had earned a diploma.
  • She claimed to have earned a doctor of juridical science degree from Harvard University in 1990. In fact she wasn’t awarded the degree until 1997. 
  • She claimed to have received an honorary doctorate from First Nations University. FNUniv says it has never awarded an honorary doctorate to anyone.
  • She claimed to have written a book about Indigenous customary adoption. That book doesn’t exist.

While Turpel-Lafond has declined comment for this story, in the past she has said that if there are errors in the way her accomplishments have been listed that would likely not be of her doing. She said she usually leaves the handling of those sorts of details to administrative assistants.

Eaton said generally speaking, in Canadian academia there are “blinding levels of trust that would preclude a deep interrogation of the facts of the CV.”

She said that’s especially the case with celebrity academics.

“When high-profile experts are recruited for academic roles, there are extraordinary levels of trust that they’ve done the work that they said they’ve done, that they have the expertise that they say they have, that their CVs are true and accurate,” she said.

In 2018, Turpel-Lafond was appointed as the head of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) and as a professor at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law.

She resigned from IRSHDC earlier this year but, remains a professor at UBC. According to university records, her salary last year was almost $300k. 

Since 2018, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been a tenured professor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC. (

CBC asked the university for its reaction to the various errors uncovered in Turpel-Lafond’s CV. 

A spokesperson replied “privacy law prevents the university from discussing HR matters related to any employee.”

‘Mary Ellen did not supervise my master’s’: Aylward

CBC has uncovered additional problems with Turpel-Lafond’s CV. 

In it, she claimed to have supervised Carol Aylward’s LLM (master of laws) studies at Dalhousie University in the early 1990s.

This came as news to Aylward when CBC reached her by phone a few days ago. “Mary Ellen did not supervise my master’s,” Aylward said. “And I don’t know why she would put that [claim in her CV]. It makes no sense.”

In her 2018 CV, which is publicly posted online, Turpel-Lafond lists students she says she has supervised. (

Aylward, who is now retired, served for years as the director of the Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative at Dalhousie University’s law school. She said that in the early 1990s, she and Turpel-Lafond were both assistant professors at Dalhousie.

Aylward, author of Canadian Critical Race Theory; Racism and the Law, said Turpel-Lafond’s claim to have been her supervisor baffles her. Aylward said she did a course-work LLM at Dalhousie and her supervisor was Jennifer Bankler.

“It seems irrational to me because there would be no reason that I could conceive of where she would have to say that I was one of her students or that she supervised my LLM when in fact she didn’t,” Aylward said. “It’s very unusual for an academic to do that because it’s so easily tracked.”

It appears Turpel-Lafond made similar incorrect claims about a student in Saskatchewan.

Turpel-Lafond’s CV says she supervised University of Saskatchewan (U of S) student Rae Mitten for her 2006 master’s of education. 

But a search of convocation records shows that Mitten didn’t earn a master’s of education at the U of S in 2006. In fact, a search of U of S convocation programs from 2000 to 2012 shows Mitten did not receive a master’s of education during that time. In addition, CBC was unable to locate a thesis connected to a master’s of education for Mitten.

Turpel-Lafond also claims that she supervised Mitten for her 2011 PhD in interdisciplinary studies from the U of S. In 2011, Turpel-Lafond did not work for the U of S. From 2006 until 2016 she served as British Columbia’s representative for children and youth, a role to which she was appointed by the B.C. legislature.

The acknowledgements section of Mitten’s thesis contradicts Turpel-Lafond’s claim that she was the supervisor. It says Mitten’s advisor was Linda Wason-Ellam, adding that Turpel-Lafond served on Mitten’s five-person advisory committee. 

In her 2011 Ph.D. thesis, Rae Mitten thanks her supervisor and her advisory committee. (U of S – Rae Mitten Ph.D. Thesis)

A U of S spokesperson said privacy considerations limited what the university can say.

However, in an email an official confirmed that Turpel-Lafond had served as an advisory committee member for Mitten. The email added that while this role pertains to “supervision provided by a committee, we cannot confirm that she was acting in the specific [role] claimed on her CV for the University of Saskatchewan.”

Academic integrity expert Sarah Eaton said that in academia, everyone knows that there is a huge difference between being a supervisor (otherwise known as an advisor) and an advisory committee member.

“If I were a committee member, I would never call myself the student’s supervisor,” said Eaton. “That would be an insult to the actual supervisor and it would also be a misrepresentation of my contribution to the student’s education.”

She said the supervisor/advisor has the primary responsibility for guiding a graduate student’s education. “You’re working one-on-one with the student, you’re guiding them, you’re meeting with them on a regular basis. It’s a pretty intensive role,” she said, noting that it can involve hundreds or even thousands of hours.

She said that, by contrast, advisory committee members play a much more peripheral and “less hands-on” role consisting of a few hours of work.

CBC reached out to Turpel-Lafond and Rae Mitten asking for comment. Mitten declined and Turpel-Lafond didn’t respond.

February 16, 2023

Senator says more awareness needed of ‘invisible crime’ of Indigenous identity theft

The Globe and Mail (Canadian Press) – Sen. Mary Jane McCallum says Indigenous identity fraud is a damaging but often unseen crime that inflicts serious harm on Indigenous women. The Cree woman from Manitoba is calling for a Senate committee to study the phenomenon and the damage it causes.

“People don’t really look at identity theft,” she said in an interview from her Parliament Hill office. “It’s almost like an invisible crime.” It is also, she said, yet another fight Indigenous women have to wage, and she is tired of having to always keep fighting.

Her call for a deeper look follows a series of high-profile cases in recent years of academics and those in the arts whose claims of Indigenous identity have been debunked.

Most recently, a CBC News investigation shed light on the questionable Indigenous identity claims of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a respected scholar and long-time advocate on Indigenous rights. A separate investigation, also by CBC News, led to Carrie Bourassa, a prominent health researcher, being placed on leave by the University of Saskatchewan after her claim of Metis heritage appeared dubious.

Back in 2017, the Indigenous ancestry claims of novelist Joseph Boyden were thrown into serious question following an investigation by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

McCallum said Thursday when identity theft happens inside a university, it is often other Indigenous academics, namely women, who are left to call it out. Students are also affected, often left with anger and a sense of violation. Reflecting on her own life, the senator says she recalls looking up to her father as a model and compares that sense of admiration to the type pupils have toward their academic mentors.

“Now to find that, ‘Well, they’re not even Indigenous,’ like, what does that do to a person?”

McCallum believes not enough Canadians realize the harm done to others by those who commit Indigenous identity fraud, which she says is made even worse by the fact there are those still fighting for recognition of Indigenous identity under the Indian Act.

Again, the senator reflects on her own life. McCallum says because her husband is non-Indigenous and her daughter was born after 1985, under the system her 10-month old grandson will not be considered status. So that’s another fight she needs to have.

“It’s at the core of womanhood, that you fight for your community, you fight for your people,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion and eyes filled with tears. “It’s so tiring and it’s still going on.” McCallum says she doesn’t understand what would motivate someone to pretend to have a heritage other than their own.

And having grown up attending residential school for 11 years and experiencing society at a time when many hid their Indigenous identity, she also wonders when being Indigenous started to become acceptable. “There will always be those people that look into the gaps and start to use indigeneity as a source of power.”

January 18, 2023


UBC regrets its handling of Turpel-Lafond ancestry concerns

Gitxaała professor says UBC’s initial response left Indigenous people ‘feeling left out to dry’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in a 2016 photo. Turpel-Lafond’s claims of Indigeneity have come under scrutiny in recent months. Her former employer, the University of British Columbia, says it regrets its handling of the allegations against her. (CBC)

CBC News: The University of British Columbia says it regrets its handling of the case of high-profile former professor Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who was the subject of a CBC investigation about her claims of Indigenous heritage.

Turpel-Lafond was a professor at UBC and academic director of the school’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre until mid-December 2022. A CBC investigation months earlier raised doubts about Turpel-Lafond’s claims of Indigeneity. For decades she had said she was a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry but documents uncovered by CBC indicate she is of entirely European descent. 

University leadership is promising to engage with Indigenous faculty and staff on how to make amends for its handling of the situation. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

CBC also discovered several inaccuracies on Turpel-Lafond’s CV.

In a letter posted Tuesday, UBC said its response to those allegations harmed its Indigenous community and Indigenous partners outside the university. 

In a statement issued to The Globe and Mail on Oct. 12, the day CBC’s story broke, UBC offered public support for Turpel-Lafond, praising her work as the director of the dialogue centre, and acknowledging her “deep connections with Indigenous peoples across Canada.” The university added that she was not hired because of her Indigenous ancestry claims. 

From 2018 until 2022, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was the director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. (

“UBC’s initial response stated that Indigenous identity had not been an explicit requirement for the appointment of the academic director … While factually correct, it would have also been understood that it was an implicit expectation,” Tuesday’s letter reads.

“The media reported UBC’s initial statement as constituting support for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, and the silence from UBC about that interpretation has been viewed as confirmation. “We deeply regret the impact of this and promise to do more now, and in the future.”

Further engagement promised

The letter goes on to say the UBC’s engagement with the Indigenous community has been inadequate and the university will work to make improvements.  “We believe that we should have met more promptly with the UBC Indigenous community…. We are taking steps to do that now.”

The letter was signed by Deborah Buszard, UBC’s interim president and vice-chancellor, and Gage Averill, provost and vice-president, academic at UBC Vancouver.

UBC says that in 2018, Indigenous ancestry was “not a criterion” for hiring a director of the newly formed Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. (

It says they have spoken with Indigenous scholars and community members and other Canadian university leaders.

The letter condemns false claims of Indigenous identity and affirms its commitment to scholarly integrity. It also promises further engagement with Indigenous faculty and staff. “We do not expect this letter to solve any of the problems that we face — we see it as a step along a path towards meaningful action in the future,” it reads.

‘Feeling left out to dry’

Charles Menzies, a professor in UBC’s Department of Anthropology and a member of Gitxaała Nation, agrees the letter will not solve any problems. He wants to see UBC leaders host a meal with witnesses to publicly express the letter’s sentiments and acknowledge how the university fell short. 

He adds other Indigenous communities may have other expectations of how the university makes amends. He says the claim that Turpel-Lafond’s ancestry had no bearing on her appointment was troubling, as was the silence after the university’s initial statement.

“It gave the impression to everyone that they were actually being supportive of the situation rather than being considerate of Indigenous faculty, staff and students,” Menzies said, adding he believes legal concerns influenced how the school handled the situation. “I can appreciate their legalistic approach to things but I cannot appreciate the way it left all of us feeling left out to dry.”

Also on Tuesday, Vancouver Island University announced Turpel-Lafond offered to return the honorary doctorate given to her by the university. VIU is one of 11 Canadian universities that have granted honorary doctorates to Turpel-Lafond.  Menzies feels the return of the honorary degree is appropriate.


Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.

With files from Geoff Leo and The Canadian Press

March 3, 2023

University of Saskatchewan launches website aimed at rooting out Indigenous identity fraud

Indigenous communities will determine what constitutes proof of Indigenous identity

The University of Saskatchewan has launched a website aimed at verifying membership or citizenship in Indigenous communities. (

CBC News: The University of Saskatchewan has launched a website it hopes will help ensure that only genuine Indigenous people will benefit from jobs and funding set aside for them. The site is a portal, enabling First Nations, Métis, Inuit and international Indigenous peoples applying for Indigenous-specific jobs, scholarships or funding to upload proof they belong to an Indigenous community. 

It also provides a verification process for those without documentation. 

The website is the latest step in a long process that began in late 2021, shortly afterCBC published a story that showed high-profile Prof. Carrie Bourassa, who had claimed to be Métis, Anishnabe and Tlingit, was of entirely European ancestry. Following an internal investigation, Bourassa resigned from the U of S. 

At that time, the university followed the honour system — self-identification — when it came to claims of Indigenous ancestry. If someone said they were Indigenous, the university accepted it without question.  Since that time, the university has publicly said the honour system is no longer acceptable. Angela Jaime, the university’s interim VP of Indigenous engagement, says the new system represents a concrete change.

“We know that there are already individuals who may not be truthful about who they are and their connection to community who are employed across Canada in government, in private sector and in institutions of higher learning,” she said. “So it makes no sense to allow them to continue to occupy Indigenous space if they are not themselves Indigenous.” 

Angela Jaime, interim VP of Indigenous engagement at the University of Saskatchewan, says the new system represents a concrete change. ( )

Jamie says while the site is run by the university, Indigenous communities are in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what qualifies as proof of membership or citizenship.  She says the proof could be a status or citizenship card, though the community might be open to other forms of proof. 

“It’s the Indigenous governments and communities that determine what that documentation looks like, whether that be a physical piece of paper, a card or an oral history and who adjudicates that. It’s those communities that decide that for us — not the university determining it,” Jaime told CBC. 

She says the new system will not only apply to future applications for jobs, scholarships and funding, but also to those already benefitting from such opportunities.  “Anyone who holds Indigenous space, Indigenous-specific roles or material advantage in any way will be required to go through the verification process,” she said.

Between 100 and 150 university faculty and staff will be required to go through that process, she says, which will be done in stages over the next year. The process for existing students will take place at a later time. 

Jaime says there will be an appeals process if the documentation is deemed insufficient. However, she says, the final decision will rest with the Indigenous community being claimed by the applicant.  “It’s the sovereign inherent rights of Indigenous people to determine the way forward,” she said, “not Western institutions like the University of Saskatchewan or any other university.”


Geoff Leo, Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo is a Michener Award nominated investigative journalist and a Canadian Screen Award winning documentary producer and director. He has been covering Saskatchewan stories since 2001. Email Geoff at

April 7, 2023


Vianne Timmons removed as president of Memorial University

Board of regents made announcement Thursday afternoon in MUN’s Gazette

Vianne Timmons stands next to the Memorial University ceremonial coat of arms.
Vianne Timmons has been removed as president and vice-chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

CBC News: Memorial University of Newfoundland’s governing body has removed president and vice-chancellor Vianne Timmons from her position.  The move comes after Timmons announced on March 13 she was taking a voluntary, six-week paid leave of absence from the president’s office amid public scrutiny following a CBC News investigation into her statements on her Indigenous ancestry and past membership in an unrecognized Mi’kmaw First Nation group.

In a statement to MUN’s Gazette on Thursday afternoon, board of regents chair Glenn Barnes announced Timmons is leaving as of Thursday. “As per the terms of her contract, Dr. Timmons’ appointment is being ended on a without cause basis. “The board appreciates Dr. Timmons’ contributions to the university during her time with Memorial, particularly her efforts to advance the university’s strategic priorities. We extend our best wishes in all her future endeavours.”

Neil Bose, former academic vice-president, has been appointed president and vice-chancellor for a two-year term or until a new president is recruited. Barnes said a presidential search will be undertaken “in due course.” Timmons did not respond to a request for comment.

A red sign for Memorial University is in the background. A tree obscures part of the sign.
Timmons has been MUN’s president and vice-chancellor since 2020. (Mike Simms/CBC)

In a statement released on March 13, MUN’s board of regents said it would form a roundtable of Indigenous leaders amid growing questions about the president’s actions.  “While our initial understanding was that president Timmons did not claim Indigenous identity, we have received a lot of feedback from the community,” said Barnes in the statement. “We have received important questions about the president’s actions, and we believe we have a responsibility to Indigenous peoples and a fiduciary duty as a board to explore these questions further.”

Memorial University’s Office of Indigenous Affairs has remained quiet throughout the last several weeks after asking the community for space. In an email statement to CBC News on Thursday afternoon, Memorial University said it plans to continue with the roundtable. “This is an opportunity for learning and reflection, and the guidance provided by the Indigenous roundtable regarding Indigenous identity will be critical to the continued process of Indigenization at Memorial,” reads the statement. 

The university said any update on the roundtable is “forthcoming.”

Faculty union, students respond

In a press release sent Thursday afternoon, Memorial University’s faculty association (MUNFA) called on the board to hire an expert on Indigenous identity to conduct an independent investigation. “Memorial cannot investigate itself,” said the release.  “The administration and the Board of Regents have yet to apologize for what has happened here.”

The release said it supports work done by the Office of Indigenous Affairs and the Indigenous Advisory Committee “to address the harms this situation is causing for Indigenous members of the Memorial community and the province more broadly.”

The union also called on the board to make the search for the school’s next president public.  “This is an opportunity to demonstrate a genuine commitment to both the goals of reconciliation and the core mission of the university,” said the release.

Indigenous students angry over MUN president’s departure
A small group of students gathered outside Memorial University’s administration building in the wake of news that Vianne Timmons was removed as president.

Click on the following link to access the above video:

MUNFA, which represents more than 800 academic staff members, said Timmons’ removal “in no way relieves the board’s responsibility,” of what happened. 

A small group of students who gathered outside MUN’s arts and administration building Thursday afternoon reiterated that same sentiment.  “Now we have absolutely no resolution. She’s stepped down, she’s still getting her severance pay, and there will be no conversation with us,” said student Makaela Blake of Juniper House, MUN’s Indigenous Student Resource Centre. “So no, we’re not happy. As the Indigenous student body, I don’t think any of us are happy with the decisions that have been made.”

Blake said she and other Indigenous students were not asked to join the roundtable and were not asked for their opinion. 

Identity versus ancestry

In response to the move, the Innu Nation issued a press release Thursday afternoon, saying that while Timmons’s removal “closes the door on the issues surrounding Dr. Timmons herself, larger policy issues about research funding, diversity, equity and participation of Indigenous peoples at MUN still need to be addressed.” “This includes the need for a process to address the growing problem of people and groups who wrongly claim to be Indigenous and how. It is clear that MUN can no longer sit on the sidelines on this issue and must, like other academic institutions in Canada, take proactive steps to address this problem.”

Timmons told CBC News in an interview Feb. 28, and has reiterated in the weeks since, that she believes she has always been clear in specifying that while she has Mi’kmaw ancestry, she does not claim an Indigenous identity. She said she publicly discussed her ancestry to honour her father’s wishes. 

But for a period of at least seven years, many of Timmons’s professional biographies noted she was a member of the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation in Cape Breton. It was listed on her publicly posted CV for at least five years.  The group is not recognized by the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq or the federal government, though they say they plan on seeking status. Timmons told CBC News she held the membership for a year, around 2009.

The membership line appeared in a biography as late as 2018, used for the independent advisory board for Senate appointments in 2018. The line did not reappear when she returned to serve on the board, which reports to the prime minister, in 2021. It also did not appear on a 2019 copy of her resumé. 

Five people in formal clothing sit in the front row of a filled auditorium.
Timmons sits in the front row at the Indspire Awards, alongside other award recipients, in February 2019.(CBC)

A representative of the Bras d’Or group, which calls itself the Bras d’Or First Nation Community, told CBC News that Timmons’s file showed she was a member between 2011 and 2013, and that they do not consider her to be part of their community. 

Timmons accepted an Indspire award — the “highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people,” according to the organization’s website — in 2019. Timmons said she was honoured with the award for education in part because of her work helping to keep First Nations University open amid funding cuts. She said she accepted the award to acknowledge her ancestors. 

In previous interviews and public appearances, Timmons has said her great-great, and sometimes great-great-great grandmother was Mi’kmaw. However, CBC research, which was reviewed by genealogist Stephen White, suggested her Mi’kmaw relative was actually ten generations removed. Timmons did not provide additional information following the interview. She said she was relying on her father’s genealogy work.

In her statement on March 13, Timmons apologized for any confusion about her identity. 

“While I have shared that I am not Mi’kmaw and I do not claim an Indigenous identity, questions about my intentions in identifying my Indigenous ancestry and whether I have benefited from sharing my understanding of my family’s history have sparked important conversations on and beyond our campus,” Timmons wrote. “I have been reflecting on this feedback from the Indigenous community, and I sincerely regret any hurt or confusion sharing my story may have caused. That was never my intention and I deeply apologize to those I have impacted.”

Came to MUN during pandemic

Timmons replaced Gary Kachanoski on March 31, 2020, after spending 11 years at the helm at the University of Regina. Documents supplied to MUN student Matt Barter showed the university spent nearly $150,000 on the external search for a new president, with most of that spent on “professional services” for a headhunting firm and advertising costs. Timmons’s five-year contract included a base pay of $450,000, an $18,000 yearly housing allowance, and $1,000 per month for vehicle costs. It stipulated she would also receive a $25,000 yearly research grant, travel perks and much more.

A woman wearing red and a man wearing a white shirt with a black vest stand inside a board room. Behind them is a blank projector screen.
Neil Bose, right, is taking over as president of MUN. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

That’s around what Kachanoski earned, but it was a bump up from the $337,000 base salary she earned at the University of Regina.

Barter and MUN are currently in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court over a protest the undergraduate student held in 2021. Barter held a sign saying “Stop Vianne” to protest her spending. The administration interpreted that protest as bullying, while Barter argued he was exercising his right to a silent protest. 

Much of Timmons’s presidency involved navigating the university through the pandemic and a faculty strike. In 2021, she announced the university would be ending a 22-year tuition freeze due to the provincial government’s slashing of MUN’s operating grant.

Timmons was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2017 for her contributions to inclusive education, family literacy, Indigenous post-secondary education and women’s leadership.

Under the terms of her contract, Timmons is entitled to a severance payment of at least $675,000, or 18 months of her base salary.  She is also entitled to more than seven months’ pay owed to her for accumulated administrative leave — about $270,000. Timmons is also entitled to 18 months’ worth of pension accrual benefits and group benefits starting from the date of her termination.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Ariana Kelland, Investigative reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John’s. She is working as a member of CBC’s Atlantic Investigative Unit. Email: