A Canadian official and academic specialising in Indigenous health issues has been placed on administrative leave as the scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health and from her university after an investigation that challenged her claims of Indigenous ancestry.
Carrie Bourassa is a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and has described herself as having Métis, Anishinaabe and Tlingit heritage. She has even appeared on a global speaking platform in the indigenous people’s traditional attire while identifying herself as “Morning Star Bear”.
According to a statement issued by Michael Strong, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health – “Today I spoke with Dr Carrie Bourassa and she will step away from all of her duties as Scientific Director of the Institute on an indefinite leave without pay effective immediately.”
The statement cited challenges questioning Dr Bourassa’s identity and flagged serious concerns with the “additional information revealed in Dr Bourassa’s responses to the media and with the harm that this information may be causing Indigenous individuals and communities.”
The move from the institutions comes shortly after an investigation by CBC News said Dr Bourassa’s genealogical records showed she was not Indigenous at all, but rather had an entirely European ancestry.
Dr Bourassa called the CBC investigation ‘’a direct attack on her and her family’’, she said she was “shocked and dismayed at the recent attack on my identity.”
“I find it appalling that a national media outlet is choosing to spin a story about Indigenous identity fraud and using my name to do so,” she said.
“This entire smear campaign stems from lateral violence and I refuse to allow myself to be further abused in this way. True journalism should be a vessel of empowerment for Indigenous women as we are the most vulnerable in this country we call Canada,” Dr Bourassa said.
Dr Bourassa said she had hired a genealogist two years ago to help her establish her claims and that project is underway.