Canadian academic on leave amid row over Indigenous ancestry claims

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A Canadian authoritative and world specialising successful Indigenous wellness issues has been placed connected administrative permission from her assemblage aft an probe challenged her claims of Indigenous ancestry.

Carrie Bourassa, a prof astatine the University of Saskatchewan, has described herself arsenic having Métis, Anishinaabe and Tlingit heritage. In 2019 she appeared astatine a TEDx speech wearing a bluish embroidered shawl and holding a feather, wherever she identified herself arsenic “Morning Star Bear”.

However, an investigation by CBC television alleged that Bourassa was wholly of European descent.

She precocious stepped down from her roles arsenic technological manager for Indigenous peoples wellness astatine the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR). Bourassa had been described by the CIHR arsenic “a Métis woman, a highly regarded Indigenous researcher” who “has been a selfless person and a tireless champion for each Indigenous peoples successful this country”.

Carrie Bourassa
Carrie Bourassa, who has accused CBC of moving a smear run against her. Photograph: TEDx University of Saskatchewan

The CBC probe has drawn comparisons with the lawsuit of Rachel Dolezal, an American world and activistic who was accused of passing herself of arsenic black. A Métis prof who worked with Bourassa told CBC she was “the modern-day Grey Owl” – a notation to Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, the British-born conservationist and writer who passed himself disconnected arsenic a Native American successful the aboriginal 20th century.

CBS reported that radical who worked with Bourassa had expressed disquiet astir her relationship of her ancestry, and immoderate examined her genealogical records, which reportedly showed that her ancestors were of Russian, Polish and Czechoslovakian descent.

In an email to CBC, Bourassa said she had been adopted arsenic Métis by a person of her gramps and had subsequently been adopted into different communities. She accused the broadcaster of moving a “smear campaign” against her, adding she was “shocked and dismayed astatine the caller onslaught connected my identity”.

In a statement released by Bourassa aft the claims were broadcast she said she identified arsenic Métis and that elders who supported her did not trust connected “blood quantums” to measure Indigenous identity.

In comments reported successful the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, she added: “Maybe successful the information that I’m trying truthful hard to propulsion pieces together, possibly I’ve forgotten definite things. It’s hard sometimes erstwhile you’re truthful anxious to find immoderate of the gaps you cognize are there.”

The attraction of Indigenous radical successful Canada has been successful the spotlight successful caller months aft the discovery of unmarked sedate sites astatine residential schools that had attempted to eradicate the civilization and languages of Indigenous populations.

Among those quoted by CBC was Janet Smylie, a wellness world of Métis practice astatine the University of Toronto, who wrote a section successful a 2017 publication connected Indigenous parenting edited by Bourassa.

Smylie told the broadcaster she had done her ain probe into Bourassa’s ancestry. “It makes you consciousness a spot sick,” she said. “To person an impostor who is speaking connected behalf of Métis and Indigenous radical to the state astir virtually what it means to beryllium Métis … that’s precise disturbing and upsetting and harmful.”

The assemblage and the wellness bureau initially supported Bourassa, though connected Monday the assemblage issued a statement saying it had “serious concerns with the further accusation revealed successful Dr Bourassa’s responses to the media.”