MALCOLM: A society increasingly obsessed with race
What happens when we as a society elevate race above other traits and accomplishments? Rather than embellishing a resume to add extra experience or to show a higher level of competence, we see that some people instead embellish their innate characteristics.
We’ve witnessed this phenomenon many times in recent years. Perhaps most notably is Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who claimed to be Native American and even identified as a “minority” while teaching at Harvard. She eventually took a DNA test which showed that she was of European descent, leading her to apologize to the Cherokee Nation for misrepresenting herself.
Canada now has its own version of Elizabeth Warren, which came to light after a thorough (and rather creepy) investigative report into the heritage of Dr. Carrie Bourassa, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
Bourassa is an accomplished woman who told an inspiring story of growing up in a dysfunctional family surrounded by violence and addiction in a rough part of Regina, and today, she is the scientific director of the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, the leading Indigenous health research unit in Canada.
Or at least she was — until CBC put out its astonishing investigative report exposing her heritage.
Bourassa claimed to be Métis, but according to CBC’s exposé — which makes painstaking efforts to track down Bourassa’s relative’s migration patterns over a hundred years ago — she’s not. As a result, every one of her accomplishments is being called into question and she is being stripped of her various honours and positions.
Interestingly, Bourassa’s sister once claimed to be Métis as well — also obtaining special assistance aimed towards helping First Nations people advance their education. Then she took a DNA test and learned her Indigenous heritage was, like Warren, little more than family lore.
A charitable reading of these facts suggests that Bourassa held an honest belief that she had a First Nations ancestor. That’s the case for many Canadians, particularly in the West, where so many people come from mixed-lineage families and most of us rely on family stories to piece together our own heritage.