Canadian Indigenous health guru ousted from government roles after she’s revealed to be white

Carrie Bourassa has been suspended by two Canadian public institutions

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 03 November 2021 11:53 GMT
<p>Carrie Bourassa says she hired a genealogist two years ago to help her establish her claims</p>

Carrie Bourassa says she hired a genealogist two years ago to help her establish her claims

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Public health expert Carrie Bourassa has been suspended by two public institutions in Canada after an investigation showed gaps in her claim that she has Indigenous roots.

Dr Bourassa has been suspended as the scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, according to a statement released by the institute’s president Michael Strong on Monday.

“Today I spoke with Dr Carrie Bourassa ... and we agreed that she will step away from all of her duties as Scientific Director of the Institute. As such, Dr Bourassa will be on an indefinite leave without pay effective immediately,” he said.

She has also been placed on leave and is relieved of all her duties as professor in the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, the institute said in a separate statement on the same day.

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.”

An investigation by the university will be initiated over the information shared by Dr Bourassa, the statement added.

“Dr Bourassa will not return to any faculty duties during this investigation. The university is committed to expediting the investigation process,” the statement added.

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 has claimed to be of the Métis, Anishnaabe and Tlingit communities with North American roots.

Calling it a direct attack on her and her family, Dr Bourassa had reacted to the CBC investigation in a statement on 27 October, in which she said she was “shocked and dismayed at the recent attack on my identity.”

While she had earlier said she did not have documents to prove her claims, she insisted she was not lying.

Dr Bourassa said she had hired a genealogist two years ago to help her establish her claims and that project is underway.

“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.

“But, rather I have been used as the next target in a public attack meant to cause me harm in what is nothing less than tabloid journalism at this point,” said the statement.

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