Statement defending Carrie Bourassa says her career was built on merit, not her claims to being Indigenous

·3 min read
A statement from 'Team Bourassa' says Carrie Bourassa is asserting her right to self-identify as Indigenous and has not inappropriately taken opportunities or educational funding from Indigenous people. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC News - image credit)
A statement from 'Team Bourassa' says Carrie Bourassa is asserting her right to self-identify as Indigenous and has not inappropriately taken opportunities or educational funding from Indigenous people. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC News - image credit)

Carrie Bourassa says she didn't take positions or funding from Indigenous people but built a career on merit.

A statement issued to media on behalf of Carrie Bourassa by "an Indigenous collective who chose anonymity at this time" says she is asserting her right to self-identify as Indigenous and has not inappropriately taken opportunities or educational funding from Indigenous people.

The statement did not provide any evidence of the many claims Bourassa has made over the years to Indigenous ancestry, which were outlined in a CBC investigation last week.

The University of Saskatchewan professor, who has also served as the scientific director of the Indigenous health arm of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, has claimed to be Métis, Anishnaabe and Tlingit, but the investigation found that she was entirely of European ancestry.

The statement also failed to address her claims to have grown up as an Indigenous child, subject to racism and a whole host of social traumas like addictions and sexual abuse, which she said were consequences of colonialism.

In a statement earlier this week, Bourassa said her public relations representative would be making a statement at some point. It is not clear whether "Team Bourassa" is that representative, or whether Bourassa herself was involved in drafting the statement, though the statement does claim it is a response from her.

CBC has reached out to Bourassa and the group for comment on the statement.

In a statement to CBC last week, Bourassa altered her previous claim of having grown up as a Métis person. Instead, she said she was adopted by a Métis friend of her grandfathers in her early 20s.

As of Monday, Bourassa is on leave from the CIHR and the U of S, and the university is conducting an investigation.

The statement, issued by "Team Bourassa," says Bourassa's employment at the U of S was not related to her claims to Indigeneity, but rather to her merit.

"Dr. Carrie Bourassa has not falsely identified as Indigenous nor taken space away from Indigenous peoples, either in the form of student funding, grants or career advancements," the statement says. "She has earned her professional status and merit through hard work, self-funding and sheer determination."

The statement adds that her work has been "flawless."

The U of S said in a statement Monday that it has "serious concerns" following Bourassa's public statements about CBC's investigation. As a result, it put her on leave and launched an investigation "into the statements and information shared by Dr. Bourassa."

"Team Bourassa" takes issue with that investigation, claiming the institution has previously investigated complaints about her and cleared her name. The statement provides no evidence of this and the U of S hasn't commented on that claim.

The statement questions the ability and standing of the U of S to be conducting an investigation into Bourassa.

"Determining Indigeneity is not within the purview of the U of S or any other non-Indigenous led institution," it says. "It should be noted that the institution did not exercise any form of internal resolution or protections for Dr. Bourassa and as a result, the internal issue has been degraded to a public spectacle led by journalists and not by Indigenous people."

The statement claims Bourassa's employment at the U of S has nothing to do with her claims to being Métis.

It says she was "officially claimed by traditional medicine people and her Métis people, long before being Métis had any benefits."

Read the full statement here:

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