University of Sask. announces policy aimed at rooting out false claims of Indigenous ancestry

·3 min read
The University of Saskatchewan says it will rely on Indigenous communities to decide what sort of documentation or proof is necessary to demonstrate Indigenous ancestry or community belonging. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)
The University of Saskatchewan says it will rely on Indigenous communities to decide what sort of documentation or proof is necessary to demonstrate Indigenous ancestry or community belonging. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)

The University of Saskatchewan says anyone who applies for a job or scholarship set aside for Indigenous people will now be required to provide documentation proving they are a member or citizen of an Indigenous community.

The school began working on a new policy following a CBC investigation last year into a high profile professor at the institution who claimed to be Indigenous without evidence.

Carrie Bourassa said she was Métis, Anishnabe and Tlingit. However, a CBC investigation found no evidence that she was Indigenous. Genealogical records showed she was of entirely European ancestry.

U of S provost Airini (who goes by one name) says the new policy will ensure that only genuine Indigenous people will receive benefits the university has set aside for them.

"Ultimately, what we want to see is a future university where there is such strong confidence that when we have Indigenous positions, awards, grants, that they are held by Indigenous peoples," she said.

usask.ca
usask.ca

University president Peter Stoicheff said up until now, the U of S has relied on self-declaration, which is essentially an honour system. He said there were no requirements for someone to provide documentation to demonstrate Indigenous ancestry or community connection.

After consultation with a task force of almost 30 Indigenous politicians, scholars, elders and others, the university has adopted a new approach, he said.

"Self-verification is no longer adequate," he said. "Documentation and verification will be required."

Indigenous communities will verify Indigeneity

Stoicheff said the U of S's consultation with the community also made it clear to him that the university itself should not play a role in determining whether someone is Indigenous or not. Instead, the university will be relying on Indigenous communities to make that call.

"We will not be the ones to decide what that looks like," he said. "Our external Indigenous partners, and by that I mean governments, everything from the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan to the FSIN to the specific First Nations in this province to beyond, will be the ones to determine what that documentation looks like."

usask.ca
usask.ca

Airini said Indigenous communities will determine what sort of documentation or proof is necessary to demonstrate Indigenous ancestry or community belonging.

"It may include oral [tradition], it may include status cards, it may include other ways," she said. "But we will be awaiting the advice from the community as to how they will self-determine membership."

She said that while the general direction has been set by this new policy, the world of Indigenous identity is very complex and there are many details that will be worked out over the next several years.

The university says it will have an Indigenous standing committee that will examine difficult situations where Indigenous people may have been cut off from their communities because of events like the Sixties Scoop, and as a result don't have documentation.

"They will help us in figuring out these cases, which are so much a reflection of the impact of colonisation," Airini said.

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