U of S deprives the top researcher of the role after asking native descent

U or S proost Dr. Airini said Bourassa is now on indefinite, unpaid leave and has been deprived of all his duties as a faculty.

Article content

A top academic from the University of Saskatchewan has been stripped of her roles and duties at the school and will resign from a national research job after a CBC study questioned her claims of native descent.

Article content

The university said it will launch a formal study of statements shared by Dr. Carrie Bourassa, one of the country’s leading researchers in native health, who is accused of making claims about Métis, Tlingit and Anishinaabe’s legacy.

U or S proost Dr. Airini said Bourassa is now on indefinite, unpaid leave and has been stripped of all his duties in the school’s College of Medicine.

“The university has serious concerns with the additional information revealed in Dr. Bourassa’s response to the media and with the harm that this information may cause to individuals and communities,” wrote Airini, who uses only one name.

President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Dr. Michael Strong, said he called Bourassa on Monday and they agreed that she would also step down from her roles as scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, the country’s top funder of native health research. , also without pay or any indication of when she may return.

“Maintaining the trust and confidence of indigenous communities is essential to the work of the CIHR,” Strong wrote. “I will communicate a plan for the ongoing management of the department in the coming days.”

It is a sudden and dramatic turnaround for the university and the federal research body that defended Bourassa last week despite a CBC investigation highlighting inconsistencies and contradictions in her claims about her legacy.

Article content

Bourassa declined a comment Monday. In an interview with StarPhoenix last week, she stood by her claims that she was Métis and Anishinaabe, but acknowledges “big gaps” in her background, a lack of genealogical evidence to support her claims, even though she worked with genealogists around two years. She said she identified herself as Métis because she was adopted by a Métis community leader at the age of 20. She also admitted that an earlier claim she made to the Tlingit legacy through her great-grandmother was false, but said that she thought she would find evidence of such a connection eventually.

Bourassa said she did not intend to resign from any of her roles.

“What would be the reason for me to resign? Maybe you could answer me for that. I have not done anything wrong,” she said.

“If our elder says to me, ‘Carrie, you must resign,’ I would do it,” Bourassa added.

Many indigenous academics demanded stronger action from the CIHR and the university.

Lilian Dyck, Canada’s first female First Nations Senator and a former vice president of research at the U of S, said the school’s defense of Bourassa casts doubt on its commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

“In order to honor and respect indigenous peoples and to live up to the spirit and intent of reconciliation, senior administrators at the University of Saskatchewan must ensure that there are meaningful and significant consequences for falsely claiming to be indigenous, as Carrie Bourassa has done,” Dyck wrote in an online statement.

Article content

Dr. Raven Sinclair, a professor of social work at the University of Regina, was emotional when she heard Strong’s statement.

“The CIHR seemed to take such a cold, distant stance. Then they listened. It’s rare for us,” Sinclair said.

She added that she felt compassion for Bourassa.

“When you are sad about something, it is hard to grasp your compassion. But it can not be easy for her, “said Sinclair.

“She has created this situation, she has to find a way to fix it herself and fix it. I do not think it is an impossible task, but it can be difficult.”


The news seems to be flying faster towards us all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help ensure you are up to date with today’s most vital news. Click here to subscribe.

Leave a Comment