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    Senate issues special statement on Duncan Campbell Scott honorary degree

    University ‘deeply regrets’ honor bestowed in 1939.

    Queen's University Senate voted in favour of issuing a Special Statement concerning the Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree conferred on Duncan Campbell Scott by Queen’s University in 1939.  The vote occurred at the regular meeting of Senate on April 18, 2023, following a motion put forward by its Honorary Degrees Committee.

    Under its Policy on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning an Honorary Degree, which was approved in March 2022, the university does not revoke honorary degrees from deceased recipients, rather, it issues a special statement that “…requires that the university work to reconcile its actions, beliefs, and values of the past with its current place in the fabric of Canadian society, and to acknowledge the role that Queen’s has played over time in shaping that fabric.”

    Scott was a Canadian poet, writer, and civil servant who served as the deputy superintendent of the federal Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 until 1932. He was involved in both Treaty 9 (also known as the James Bay Treaty), and the operation and expansion of the Indian Residential School System

    The special statement, reads in part that: “In light of the harms Duncan Campbell Scott perpetrated on Indigenous peoples in his role as a treaty negotiator and deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913-1932, Queen’s University deeply regrets the honour we bestowed upon him and recognizes that we must live with the dishonor of having honored him. It is a stain on our reputation that cannot be washed away.”

    The special statement has been read into the record at Senate, and will also be reflected online both on the Duncan Campbell Scott Honorary Degree Subcommittee webpage and on the list of Honorary Degree recipients stewarded by the Office of the University Registrar.

    Calls for a review of Scott’s honorary degree began in late 2021 and early 2022. An Honorary Degree Subcommittee to Review the Honorary Degree of Duncan Campbell Scott was struck in the fall of 2022. The subcommittee was composed of Nathan Brinklow (Chair), Ali Akbari (student), Kandice Baptiste (staff), Owen Crawford-Lem (Rector/student), Petra Fachinger (faculty), Willa Henry (University Council), Susan Korba (staff), Lea Trotman (Queen's University Alumni Association), and Mark Walters (Dean).

    The recommendation to issue the special statement was made after careful consideration and consultation with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, and other members of the Queen’s community. The subcommittee brought their recommendation to the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee at the end of March.

    Queen’s developed its policy to provide guidance and clarity around the process to properly and fairly consider any request to examine the past award of an honorary degree. This is the first honorary degree reviewed under the 2022 policy. The university has only revoked one honorary degree from a living recipient – former Burmese/Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi – since it began awarding them in 1872.