Special Statements Concerning Honorary Degrees

In 2022, the Queen's Senate approved the Policy on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning Honorary Degrees. This Policy, and the corresponding Procedures, outline the process and responsibilities related to examining a past Honorary Degree recipient and the potential outcomes of such an inquiry.

Records will be kept of all Subcommittees struck to examine these degrees and the outcomes of the inquiries.

Duncan Campbell Scott, LLD 1939

On April 18, 2023, Queen’s Senate approved the issuance of a Special Statement regarding the Honorary Degree granted to Duncan Campbell Scott, as per the Procedure on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning an Honorary Degree.

Special Statement

Duncan Campbell Scott was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law from Queen’s University in 1939. This statement serves to acknowledge that the awarding of an honorary degree to Duncan Campbell Scott in 1939 has created significant harm to many current and former students, faculty, and staff, especially Indigenous members of the Queen’s community, and to Indigenous communities. In addition to his role in negotiating the important James Bay Treaty, Mr. Scott played a significant role in the development and expansion of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools System, including establishing the requirement that all Indigenous children between the ages of seven and fifteen attend such institutions. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada referred to the residential school system as cultural genocide and documented the extensive consequences created by the system, which are still felt today. The knowledge that such deep harm was done in the name of education to innocent children, many of whom died and never returned home, and the effects on their families and communities is abhorrent and demands a response.   Queen’s University recognizes that we cannot undo, nor simply forget, the actions of our history, and that it is our duty to reflect on the actions, beliefs, and values of our past in light of our current values and place in the fabric of Canadian society as well as on this land. Queen’s University is committed to playing a role in the ongoing work of Truth and Reconciliation, which includes reconsidering the university’s past celebration of persons whose words or deeds no longer accord with the values of the university.  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 fact of the award reminds us that we must carefully consider our decisions today for their consequences on the coming generations of Queen’s students, staff, and faculty, and ensure that we do our best to ensure that our decisions will not likewise dishonor them. Actions will be taken to ensure that, wherever reference is made to Duncan Campbell Scott in connection with his Queen’s Honorary Degree, this special statement will be clearly linked and indicated.

Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott was a Canadian poet, writer, and civil servant. He was the Deputy Superintendent of the federal Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 until 1932 and he played a role in both Treaty 9 (also known as the James Bay Treaty), and the operation and expansion of the Indian Residential School System.  He received an honorary degree from Queen’s University (LLD - Doctor of Laws) in 1939.

Duncan Campbell Scott Honorary Degree Subcommittee

Over the course of the 2022-23 academic year, a subcommittee established by the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee worked to consider a motion of the Senate to review the Honorary Degree granted to Duncan Campbell Scott in accordance with the principles laid out in the Policy on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning an Honorary Degree.

Nathan Brinklow, Chair

Petra Fachinger, Faculty Member

Owen Crawford-Lem, Rector

Ali Akbari, Student

Susan Korba, Staff Member

Kandice Baptiste, Staff Member

Mark Walters, Dean

Willa Henry, University Council Member

Lea Trotman, Queen's University Alumni Association Member

In addition, specific non-voting subject matter experts shall be included as follows:

  • University Historian
  • University Secretary
  • Representative from the Office of Indigenous Initiatives
  • Representative from the Human Rights and Equity Office

Support to the Ad Hoc subcommittee shall be provided by the Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor.


The Subcommittee is mandated to consider a motion of the Senate to review the Honorary Degree granted to Duncan Campbell Scott in accordance with the principles laid out in the Policy on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning an Honorary Degree.

The Subcommittee will develop a detailed communications and consultation plan to be approved by the Honorary Degrees Committee prior to implementation. This plan will take into consideration to need to identify and consult with stakeholders from both within and outside of the University. As part of its consultation efforts the Subcommittee will take proactive steps to ensure it hears from marginalized constituencies in a way that avoids placing such persons in a defensive position or seemingly bearing the burden of having to refute submissions from constituencies of dominant social, racial, and other groups. The communications and consultation plan shall contain a specific focus on engagement with Indigenous persons and communities. The Subcommittee will have access to both internal and external specialized expertise and advice regarding the design and execution of the plan.

The Subcommittee’s processes and decision-making rationales will be publicly available, as will the methods used, and information gathered, through research.  

The following principles, considerations, and questions will be considered by the Subcommittee during its work as outlined in the Procedure on Revocation of or Special Statements Concerning an Honorary Degree:

  • What was the original rationale for granting the degree?
  • Is the principal legacy of the individual in question fundamentally at odds with Queen’s vision, mission, and values?  Were the individual’s contributions to Queen’s itself and, if so, how fundamental were these contributions?
  • Is the fact of the award a source of connection or community for Queen’s?
  • What harm is associated with the fact of the degree award, and how severe is this harm within local and broader contexts?
  • Does the fact of the degree award impede the university in its mission or impair the honouring of its principles?
  • Does the degree have a negative impact on members of the Queen’s community, their sense of belonging, or on members outside of the Queen’s community?
  • Does fact of the degree award harm Queen’s reputation?
  • Does fact of the degree award impair Queen’s in pursuit of its equity, diversity, inclusiveness, indigenization, or reconciliation goals?
  • If revocation occurs or a special statement were issued:
  • Would it contribute to the creation of a climate of inclusion that is welcoming and safe?
  • Would it be considered meaningful or a benefit to the persons it is designed to speak to, both in the immediate and longer terms?
  • Would a statement serve to justify a past action?

The Subcommittee will endeavor to complete its work in time for a recommendation to be placed before the Senate for its consideration by the end of the 2022 calendar year.