Former U of R president apologizes, steps back from Memorial University amid Indigenous claims

Vianne Timmons, the former president of the University of Regina, is taking a temporary leave of absence from Memorial University amid Indigenous identity claims. Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

The former president at the University of Regina is stepping back from roles as president of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is apologizing for hurt she may have caused by claiming Indigenous ancestry.

She says in a public statement Monday that she is temporarily stepping away from her duties while the school’s board of regents considers its next steps through an Indigenous-led roundtable.

An investigation published last week by CBC News raised questions about Vianne Timmons’ claims that her father’s great-great-grandmother was Mi’kmaq. Timmons says she has never claimed to be Mi’kmaq, just to have Mi’kmaq heritage, but for several years she listed membership with an unrecognized Mi’kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia in her professional credentials.

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She says she shared her understanding of her family’s history, and that questions about her intentions in doing so, as well as whether she benefited, have prompted “important conversations.”

Timmons has said that her father was taught to be ashamed of his Indigenous history, and she says that she shared her story in the spirit of reconciliation and respect for Indigenous Peoples.

The university says Timmons is on a six-week voluntary paid leave of absence.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.

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