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The University of British Columbia is a stellar institution that does many things well. Handling sticky situations is not one of them.

This week, the university confirmed that it no longer employs Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the celebrated academic, lawyer and former judge. As for why, well, the school won’t say, which, of course, is ridiculous. We all know why: because of the compelling evidence that she isn’t who she says she is.

Except UBC won’t say that.

The school is hiding behind “privacy” concerns, yet told Postmedia that the president’s advisory committee on Indigenous affairs is having “conversations” about the matter. As for Ms. Turpel-Lafond, she issued a statement to Black Press Media that says she was retiring “based on her age and stage of life.” She said she looked forward to focusing on her “health, family and spiritual journey.”

If you have been following the excellent investigation by the CBC’s Geoff Leo into Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s past, you know that new research shows she is not a status Indian raised in Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, as she has always maintained. In fact, records indicate she is of European descent and spent much of her youth in the Niagara Falls area of Ontario. CBC has also revealed problems with her academic record, including resume entries that have turned out not to be true.

For her part, Ms. Turpel-Lafond has so far not produced any documentation that undermines or refutes the CBC’s highly damaging reporting.

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This is a full-on scandal – one you might have expected to create bigger waves in this country, given the attention similar controversies have garnered in the past. In 2017, for instance, a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network concluded that the celebrated “Indigenous” writer, Joseph Boyden, did not have the heritage he claimed. That caused a titanic national stir.

But the Indigenous community has been particularly divided over the controversy enveloping Ms. Turpel-Lafond, not because the evidence isn’t compelling enough – far from it – but rather because of her high standing among many groups within the community. That said, there have been several Indigenous leaders and academics who have spoken out and likely forced UBC into severing ties with Ms. Turpel-Lafond, regardless of how she and the school want to characterize her departure.

The fact that the school’s handling of this situation has been so atrocious shouldn’t surprise us. UBC’s management of allegations of sexual assault against the head of its creative writing department, Steven Galloway, in 2015 has become a case study in how not to handle such a sensitive situation. In fact, the school so badly botched the matter it ended up having to pay the acclaimed writer more than $240,000 in damages.

Then there was Arvind Gupta, whose sudden resignation as university president in 2015 after one year on the job was also similarly bungled. The school issued an opaque release late on a Friday afternoon that did nothing but allow a lack of information about what really happened to be filled with damaging speculation and recrimination.

Too often with UBC, situations that have demanded transparency and accountability have been met with just the opposite.

When evidence became public that Ms. Turpel-Lafond might not be who she claimed to be, UBC’s response was to stand by her and make the ridiculous assertion that she was not hired to be the first head of the school’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, and professor at the Allard School of Law, because of her Indigenous ancestry. It was not a criterion, they said.

As if.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond is gone largely because a chorus of brave Indigenous voices, mostly women, demanded something be done. The matter also had become an issue among many faculty at UBC, who were equally offended by the way the school was dealing with the matter.

The odd thing is, there was a perfect template available on how to handle such a scandal. It was provided by the University of Saskatchewan last fall. When a similar controversy engulfed one of its professors, Carrie Bourassa, the school ordered an investigation. Before it was concluded, Ms. Bourassa resigned over false claims to Indigenous heritage. But the school also instituted new rules that say anyone claiming such a background must provide a status card or point to evidence from the Métis citizenship registry.

UBC appears to have hoped this whole thing would just magically disappear – that Ms. Turpel-Lafond would quietly slip away and that would be it. It has not.

The school should heed the call from Cindy Blackstock, the noted Indigenous activist and academic, to issue a clear statement that academic and identity misrepresentation will not be tolerated.

Right now, UBC’s continued silence is a terrible look.