If you thought this was a uniquely American phenomenon, you may want to think again. Most of the social media chatter about Elizabeth Warren’s false claims to indigenous heritage eventually died down, but now a fresh and potentially more egregious example comes to us from Canada. Carrie Bourassa is a medical researcher with the University of Toronto and someone who became known as a “top voice on indigenous health issues.” She also has a government position with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health. Actually, I should have used the past tense for both of those titles because she was recently ousted from both of her positions at the university and with the government. That happened when it was discovered the celebrated First People’s scientist was not of indigenous heritage at all. In fact, she was about as European as one can be. (NY Post)
A Canadian medical researcher who rose to become the nation’s top voice on indigenous health has been ousted from her government job and her university professorship — after suspicious colleagues investigated her increasingly fanciful claims of Native American heritage and learned she was a fraud.
Carrie Bourassa, a public health expert who served as scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, was suspended on Nov. 1, five days after the state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation published a lengthy expose on her background…
“It makes you feel a bit sick,” said Janet Smylie, a Métis professor at the University of Toronto who worked with Bourassa on a book about indigenous parenting.
Reading into the details of the story, the performances put on by Bourassa were just over the top, leading to suspicions among her colleagues who are actually from the indigenous tribes. She gave a TEDx talk in 2019 where she dressed in “full tribal regalia,” complete with a feather in her partially braided hair. She spoke tearfully of a childhood spent in conditions of poverty and abuse.
But when one of her associates from the university saw the performance and grew suspicious, they began digging into her genealogical record. (How they did that isn’t specified.) It turns out that Bourassa is descended from Russian, Polish and Czech immigrants. To make matters worse, when she was confronted with the evidence, she completely changed her story. She said she had been “adopted” into the Métis indigenous community by a friend of her deceased grandfather. The friend was not identified. But she “identifies” as an indigenous person, so that should count for something, right?
Now she’s been given the boot and reporters are comparing her to both Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal. Perhaps she’ll land a book deal the way that Dolezal did.
Speaking of which, when Rachel Dolezal was eventually outed, it happened because her own parents ratted her out and expressed “confusion” over the way she was living her life. In the case of Bourassa, her university colleague had to dredge through her ancestry records to discover the truth. Has anyone attempted to contact her parents or siblings, assuming she has any? She seems young enough that it wouldn’t be unusual for them to be alive, even if her grandfather has passed away.
If her parents have photo albums showing her growing up with them and no memory of her being “adopted” out to an indigenous family, then the matter could be put to rest. Of course, it’s possible that they simply didn’t want to comment. I’m sure Rachel Dolezal’s parents were embarrassed by the entire affair and wanted to avoid giving interviews. And would we really blame them?