She’s Sitting Bulls-t.
A Canadian medical researcher who rose to become the nation’s top voice on indigenous health has beenand 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 Corporationon her background.
Far from being a member of the Métis nation, as she had long claimed, a laborious trace of Bourassa’s family tree revealed that her supposedly indigenous ancestors were in fact immigrant farmers who hailed from Russia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
“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.
“To have an impostor who is speaking on behalf of Métis and indigenous people to the country about literally what it means to be Métis … that’s very disturbing and upsetting and harmful.”
Colleagues began to doubt Bourassa’s story as she began to add claims of Anishinaabe and Tlingit heritage to her tale — and took to dressing in stereotypically indigenous fashion.
It started to unravel in 2019, when she appeared in full tribal regalia — draped in an electric blue shawl, with a feather in her partially braided hair — to give a TEDx Talk at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
“My name is Morning Star Bear,” she said tearfully as the crowd cheered.
“I’m Bear Clan. I’m Anishinaabe Métis from Treaty Four Territory,” she proclaimed as she described an impoverished childhood beset by violence.
But colleagues at the university, where Bourassa held a professorship, smelled a rat.
“When I saw that TEDx, to be quite honest, I was repulsed by how hard she was working to pass herself off as indigenous,” said Winona Wheeler, an associate professor of Indigenous studies at the college.
Wheeler, a documented member of Manitoba’s Fisher River Cree Nation, started digging into Bourassa’s genealogical records — and took her findings to the media.
But when pressed to provide evidence of Native American heritage, Bourassa suddenly changed her story — saying that she had been adopted into the Métis community by an unnamed Métis friend of her deceased grandfather, Clifford Laroque.
“Even though Clifford passed, those bonds are even deeper than death because the family has taken me as if I was their blood family,” she insisted in a statement. “In turn, I serve the Métis community to the best of my ability.”
The case is drawing comparisons tothe white woman who claimed to be black as president of a local branch of the NAACP — , who claimed Native American ancestry on the strength of family lore and her “high cheekbones.”
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