Canada: university president to take go away amid controversy around Indigenous ancestry declare

The president of a Canadian college has apologized and is using a leave of absence immediately after allegations that she falsely claimed to be Indigenous, in the latest high-profile case of obvious cultural identification fraud.

Vianne Timmons, who is president of Memorial University of Newfoundland, reported that she would be using a six-week leave right after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) released a report past week questioning her statements that her father’s good-excellent-grandmother was Mi’kmaq.

“While I have shared that I am not Mi’kmaq and I do not declare an Indigenous identification, inquiries about my intentions in determining my Indigenous ancestry and no matter whether I have benefitted from sharing my understanding of my family’s history have sparked critical conversations on and over and above our campus,” she stated in a assertion on Monday.

Timmons mentioned she “sincerely regrets any damage or confusion” and that she “deeply apologies to these impacted”.

The incident is the newest in a string of events involving popular figures who have been accused of overstating their statements to an Indigenous identity, prompting refreshing discussion about who can make these types of claims – and no matter if elaborations and falsehoods really should be taken care of as fraud.

Although Timmons informed the CBC that she experienced not claimed to be Indigenous, she experienced shown membership with the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq 1st Nation in Nova Scotia, which is not recognized by other Indigenous teams or by the federal authorities. She also approved an award in 2019 from Indspire, an Indigenous-led charity, which on Tuesday nonetheless shown her as Mi’kmaq on its internet site.

When Dr Megan Scribe, an assistant professor in sociology at Toronto Metropolitan University, noticed Timmons’ statements, she reported her initially considered was: “Oh no, once again?”

“Even immediately after finding out some of the circumstantial facts … it all starts to blur. Because there have been so numerous confirmed and likely circumstances of id fraud at universities in the last yr,” said Scribe, who is Ininiw from the Norway Property Cree Country and the training director for the Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led investigate and training middle based mostly at the university.

Other latest conditions include Carrie Bourassa, a former professor at the College of Saskatchewan, who was suspended after her promises to numerous Indigenous identities have been challenged. She resigned from the university in 2022.

In October, the CBC posted an investigation into Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a previous judge and then professor at the College of British Columbia, about discrepancies in her statements to Indigenous heritage.

At the time, Turpel-Lafond said that she had reliable her father’s account of getting Cree heritage. Some of Turpel-Lafond’s honorary degrees have been revoked, and she not too long ago advised the Canadian Press that it was “liberating” to be freed of the honours, as it allowed her to “focus on what truly matters in her lifestyle.” She cautioned that “trial by media is rampant” and could lead to “wrongful convictions”.

And in 2021, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, confronted a backlash immediately after reviews emerged that cast doubt on the Indigenous identification of many faculty customers. The following yr, a 32-web site report by Indigenous teachers referred to as on the university to apologize and build a system to validate Indigenous identities.

Considering the fact that colonization started, white Canadians have usually pretended to be Indigenous, from white men and women dressed as Indigenous “performers” at 20th-century fairs to Canadian summer season camps the place small children were being advised to pretend to be Indigenous as an factor of “play”.

Scribe stated that falsely declaring Indigenous heritage remains “an emerging feature of settler colonialism” and is “now using root in our society in a a lot more structural, systemic way”.

“It’s a characteristic of colonialism that will allow settlers to legitimize their claim to these territories,” she explained.

As a lot more conditions emerged, establishments have produced missteps in addressing issues. And it’s usually fallen on Indigenous individuals to guidebook universities in producing transform.

But efforts to look into allegedly fraudulent claims aren’t without risk: in January 2021, Michelle Latimer, a film-maker, sued CBC journalists, most of whom have been Indigenous, after they probed her heritage. The lawsuit was dropped in 2021.

In 2022 attorney Jean Teillet, who specializes in Indigenous legal rights law, wrote an considerable report for the University of Saskatchewan that examined Indigenous id fraud.

It included the background of this style of fraud and solutions used, which include the reliance on embellished or concocted individual stories, DNA tests, and the “grooming” Indigenous elders by employing manipulation to give legitimacy to claims of Indigenous id.

Teillet called on universities to far better handle these types of issues, and cultivate far better associations with Indigenous peoples.

“It is critical to create far more meaningful and near interactions with Indigenous peoples, and not just with respect to the partnerships important for identification verification,” she mentioned.

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