Stolen valour, stolen Indigeneity, both shameful
- John Lagimodiere | November 05, 2021
One thing about the military, is they keep things black and white. And they don’t mess around.
A few years back, one of our freelance writers went to a big event and interviewed veterans and, from those interviews, compiled a bunch of mini profiles that we ran in our paper and then on our web site. Once the stories hit the website, we received a call from a former soldier that we know and trust. He informed us that one of the people we had profiled was a former soldier but was being accused of stolen valour.
According to the Legion movement, when an individual commits stolen valour - wearing government sanctioned medals, uniforms, or decorations they are not entitled to, or possessing documentation that falsely identifies them as Canadian Armed Forces – they degrade the honour and sacrifices of those rightly wearing the uniform.
We immediately removed the profile of the offending soldier out of respect for all the men and women in our forces who had earned those medals justly. It was the least we could do. Didn’t even have to think about it.
And it turns out that the military takes this very seriously and people that steal valour are guilty of breaking the law. It is an offence under Sections 419 A and B of the Criminal Code of Canada for anyone, other than the recipient, to wear a uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces or Service Insignia, such as medals, ribbons, badges, chevrons or other decoration. It is also an offence for anyone to wear any imitation of the above if it is likely to be mistaken for the said uniform or service insignia. How fitting. Charging a person who is committing a fraud.
This phenomenon of acting as something you’re not to further yourself has been all too real in academia this month as Dr. Carrie Bourassa was outed as a “pretendian.” According to Wikipedia, “A Pretendian is a person who is asserted to have falsely claimed Indigenous identity by claiming to be a citizen of a Native American tribal nation, or to be descended from Native ancestors. As a practice, pretendianism is an extreme form of cultural appropriation, sometimes also referred to as ethnic fraud or race shifting.
Dr Bourassa has shifted race quite often. She started as a Métis, then became Anishinaabe Métis and then it became ludicrous when she was self declaring as Tlingit as well. What was next, Aztec and Mohawk? The most egregious part of Bourassa’s story was her reflecting on growing up Indigenous with poverty, violence, racism and sexual abuse. Did that give her assumed street cred? All I know is I feel sorry for her husband and daughter and her siblings and parents.
When you steal valour, you immediately undermine the lived reality of those soldiers, their deeds and sacrifices. It is no different with pretendians.
Bourassa’s claiming Indigeneity undermines our lived reality and accepting funding intended for Indigenous scholars is especially insulting as we honour our veterans who were denied the benefits accorded to white veterans.
They make a law for stolen valour; I wonder when our government will follow up with some sort of law or way to police this increasing trend of people wanting to Indigenize themselves. We certainly have our own ways to safeguard, but many times the big old institutions tend to ignore our customs and the fakes take space intended for Indigenous folks.
Remember back in the day when there was no currency at all in telling people your Indigenous ancestry? The only good thing out of this pretendian thing is it seems more folks think it is cool to be Indigenous now.
Credit must go to Dr. Winona Wheeler and Dr. Caroline Tait for standing up, exposing the fraud and insisting on accountability at the University. Credit to the University of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for finally (belatedly) suspending her from her position.
Newsmaker of the year 2021
Is 2021 the year of the pretendian?! Michelle Latimer and Bourassa both in the limelight for their exposed backgrounds. Or maybe the Newsmaker of the Year is Bobby Cameron? Recently re-elected FSIN Chief for the third time in a row. Or could it be Canoe Lake Young Guns winning the Freddie Sasakamoose Memorial?
We need your input on the newsmakers of 2021 and your suggestions for the ultimate newsmaker of 2021. Send your nominees in through our Facebook or hit us at email@example.com