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How does Indigenous identity fraud happen? Lack of education, U of S report says


An independent report, commissioned by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), looks at how Indigenous identity fraud can happen.

About a year ago, the U of S placed professor Carrie Bourassa on leave and suspended her duties following questions of her Indigenous ancestry.

The university commissioned Metis lawyer Jean Teillet to investigate Bourassa.

But months into Teillet’s work, Bourassa resigned — so her report shifted focus from Bourassa to Indigenous identity fraud as a whole.

Teillet found universities rely on applicants to self-identify their heritage with no “checking mechanisms.”

“No one asked any questions at all. So that's just a wide open door for fraud,” Teillet told CTV News.

In July, the U of S changed its verification process. It now requires applicants to provide documentation to prove their Indigenous membership.

In the 86-page report, Teillet said the issue of Indigenous identity fraud stems from Canadians’ ignorance.

“If people knew more about Indigenous peoples, then they would be able to spot the fakes,” Teillet said.

“My recommendation, at bottom, comes down to education.”

Teillet said Indigenous identity fraud often involves people claiming to be adopted.

“One of my recommendations is we all need to get more clear in our understanding about all these things,” the lawyer said.

Teillet said Indigenous identity requires a “reciprocal relationship between the nation and the individual.”

One of Teillet’s key recommendations is for institutions to focus on those impacted by the imposter — such as Indigenous communities, students and staff.

Teillet said Indigenous identity fraud can create serious harm and damage, especially if the the imposter created policy.

She described Indigenous identity fraud as “poison” — tainting the integrity of a university and seeping into Indigenous communities, where there’s already a trust deficit with institutions.

“For everybody who grabs the microphone who is not Indigenous, they’re taking away opportunities from a real Indigenous person,” Teillet said. Top Stories

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