Turpel-Lafond now claims his father was adopted by a Cree family

After months of refusing to directly answer questions from CBC about her father’s parentage, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has now claimed in a statement on Twitter that her father, who she says was Cree, was adopted by her parents. Grand parents.

For decades, Turpel-Lafond, considered one of Canada’s most accomplished Indigenous scholars, claimed she was a Treaty Indian of Cree ancestry. She said she was Cree because her father, William Turpel, was Cree.

A CBC investigation released earlier this week challenged those claims.

CBC asked Turpel-Lafond how his father could be Cree when his grandparents, the people who raised his father, were of European and American ancestry.

She declined to answer the question directly, instead alluding to family secrets.

« My father was born while my grandfather was at Norway House. I was brought up not to embarrass, shame or hurt families, and not to interfere, » she wrote in a email to CBC. « I respect my parents and all my family members and would never call anyone. Growing up, we didn’t question biological parentage. »

William Turpel, back, had four daughters, including Mary Ellen, front and centre. (Melinda Turpel/Facebook)

While Turpel-Lafond declined to say who she thought her father’s parents were, her sister Melinda Turpel shared her thoughts with CBC in a phone interview.

She said it was possible her father was the product of an affair between her grandfather and a Cree woman. But she said the most likely scenario is that he was adopted.

« I believe [William Nicholson and Eleanor Turpel] were not his parents. They just took care of him and raised him like he was their own, » she said, adding that she thought her sisters would agree with her.

In Turpel-Lafond’s Friday statement on Twitter, she said her grandparents « adopted my father, who they knew was a Cree child from Norway House, although it wasn’t done formally. « .

This assertion by Turpel-Lafond is difficult to reconcile with the historical documents discovered by Radio-Canada.

A newspaper advertisement published on July 24, 1929 in the Victoria Daily Times stated that his grandparents, « Dr. and Mrs. WN Turpel of Norway House, Manitoba », had given birth to a son. A baptismal record dated March 27, 1932 indicates that the child born in Victoria was William Turpel.

william turpel s newspaper announcement
A July 24, 1929 advertisement in the Victoria Daily Times newspaper states that Dr and Mrs Turpel had a son. A later baptismal record indicates that the boy born on that date was William Turpel. (Victoria Daily Times)

Mark Humphries, a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, told CBC that the discovery of these two independent documents would make it unlikely that William would be adopted by the Turpels.

« It’s pretty clear that Eleanor was William Turpel’s mother, at least from the records I’ve seen, » Humphries said.

Turpel-Lafond also told CBC that a Cree woman adopted her father from her grandparents, apparently the opposite of what she now claims.

« The midwife, Mary Clarke, adopted my father, » Turpel-Lafond wrote in an email to CBC. « She had lost a son and she ended up taking my father as her son. » She claimed that Clarke and her grandfather, Dr. Turpel, « were very close ».

Turpel-Lafond also claimed to be a treaty Indian, but she always refused CBC requests to see her Indian status card and didn’t even indicate if she had one.

Indigenous leaders like Michelle Good, a retired lawyer and author from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, have called on Turpel-Lafond for transparency.

“If she says she does in fact know there is Indigenous ancestry, then for the people she claims to love and support and dedicate her life to, she should bring that [evidence] before she should reveal it publicly,” Good said.

In recent years in this country, scholars and Indigenous leaders have expressed concern that increasing numbers of non-Indigenous people are claiming Indigenous ancestry and receiving benefits reserved for Indigenous peoples.

In her Friday statement, Turpel-Lafond said, “Although I often work in the areas of Indigenous justice and child protection, I have never obtained a position on the basis of affirmative action. …I have been clear in my work that I do I speak on behalf of no First Nation, as I am a private citizen, not a chief or elected leader. »


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