PE Ledger

In the context of the Carrie Bourassa inquiry, universities throughout Canada are addressing Indigenous identity fraud

Sask’s First Nations University is preparing for a national discussion on Indigenous identity.

The University of Saskatchewan has agreed to rely on the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) and its citizenship registration in the future to determine who qualifies for Métis opportunities at the university.

In a Nov. 27 MN-S news release announcing the agreement, U of S president Peter Stoicheff was reported as saying, “We feel that acknowledging that Indigenous communities determine and verify their own memberships is an important aspect of reconciliation.”

The MN-S has been urging Saskatchewan post-secondary institutions to use its citizenship register when providing jobs or scholarships to Métis people since June 2020, according to the organisation.

“This is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a Canadian university and a Métis government,” MN-S president Glen McCallum stated.

The announcement comes one month after a CBC investigation revealed that Carrie Bourassa, a University of Saskatchewan professor who has claimed to be of Métis, Anishnaabe, and Tlingit descent for years, lacked substantiation of her claims.

She has been discharged from her position as scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Indigenous health division since then. She’s also been suspended from the University of Saskatchewan pending the outcome of an investigation into whether Bourassa lied about her ancestry in her dealings with the university.

MN-S issued a statement criticising identity fraud the day after the CBC story was opened, calling it “a severe challenge in the arts, academics, and public agencies where funding, employment, advisory positions, and other opportunities are intended for Indigenous peoples.” The MN-S has also established an “objectively verifiable registration of Métis citizens… based on an approved common definition of Métis across Métis governments,” according to the announcement.

A national dialogue planned

When it comes to hiring Indigenous people or providing other chances, many Canadian colleges have relied on self-identification, which is essentially an honour system, for years. However, a number of national scandals involving high-profile people in the arts or academia falsely claiming Indigenous ancestry have led Indigenous leaders and university administrators to believe that self-identification is no longer enough.

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