Investigate faculty suspected of false Indigenous ancestry claims, group says following Bourassa revelations

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A rally was held on Friday to bring attention to Indigenous identity fraud, in the wake of Carrie Bourassa's false claims to Indigenous ancestry.   (Matt Garand/CBC - image credit)
A rally was held on Friday to bring attention to Indigenous identity fraud, in the wake of Carrie Bourassa's false claims to Indigenous ancestry. (Matt Garand/CBC - image credit)

Dozens of Indigenous faculty, students, supporters and allies gathered Friday at the University of Saskatchewan to protest Indigenous identity fraud, after a CBC investigation that found there was no evidence to support U of S health researcher Carrie Bourassa's claims to Indigenous ancestry.

Protesters called on universities across Canada to hold transparent investigations into any faculty or staff members who are suspected of falsely claiming they are Indigenous.

The rally was organized by the Matriarchs, Clan Mothers, Aunties and Allies group, which asked that anyone be removed from a role or position if they are found to have made an unsubstantiated claim of Indigeneity.

This comes on the heels of CBC's investigation that found Bourassa's ancestors all came from Europe and had no link to Indigenous ancestry, despite Bourassa's many claims over the past 20 years.

Bourassa, who has headed up an Indigenous research lab at the U of S and the Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, has publicly claimed to be Métis, Anishnaabe and Tlingit.

Bourassa has been placed on unpaid leave from the university, as well as from the Indigenous health arm of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Raven Sinclair, a professor at the University of Regina who delivered remarks at Friday's rally, said non-Indigenous people claiming Indigenous identity to further their careers is "an act of colonialism."

"Using a false identity to then stand up and speak for Indigenous women, to take our voice ... it's theft. You don't have a right to speak for our experiences based on fabrications," she said.

Demonstrators held signs that read "Pretendians stop taking up space'' and "They want the platform without the trauma."

Matt Garand/CBC
Matt Garand/CBC

The University of Regina has already announced changes to its Indigenous identity policy, saying it is committed to establishing an advisory body to help create a system of reviewing Indigenous employment credentials.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the U of R said it looks forward to "discussions with Indigenous leaders and scholars who are currently developing policies and processes regarding Indigenous identity, and to working with the national university collective as we all seek to understand and respond to this issue going forward."

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