100 Stories

Carrie Bourassa, B.A., M.A., PhD. (Regina)

Chair, Indigenous & Northern Health; Senior Scientist, Health Sciences North Research Institute; Scientific Director at the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Carrie Bourassa

Carrie completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science at Campion in 1995.

Campion may have seemed a foreign place at first to Carrie, but it was not long before she felt respected and understood:

“As an Indigenous woman going to university in a time well before an official apology for the atrocities suffered by my ancestors in residential schools, and well before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) it was an incredible feeling. I was astounded at their empathy, compassion, and ability to acknowledge what they did not know.  There were very few Indigenous students attending Campion at that time, but I certainly felt welcomed, safe, and thoroughly enjoyed my courses, particularly the religious studies courses where the Jesuit Priests would explore women’s roles – yes we talked about sexism in a religious studies class!“

Beating the odds doesn’t mean you have to stand alone in doing so. If your dream is big enough, people come ‘out of the woodwork’ to support your efforts. Carrie relishes the help she gleaned when acquiring her PhD:

“Coming from a very dysfunctional, impoverished home of teenage parents and, raised with the help of my grandfather, I can say that one of my greatest accomplishments is completing my Master’s and finally my Doctoral degrees.  It was at the urging of my grandfather, who passed away when I was 19, to be the first in my family to go on to university.  My adopted Mushum, Clifford LaRocque, and my Kookum Betty McKenna encouraged me and supported me to complete my PhD.  I know that without the support of my husband, my family, and my community I could never have completed this work.”

She has no great agenda for the way her life has or will unfold. All she knows is that she’s ready to serve and help others. She applies her knowledge and talents through several capacities, to open the doors of opportunity for others to pass through:

“I try to give back every day.  The work that I do is always community driven.  I am a community-based researcher and I served in that capacity for 15 years.  Now I am in a new position as the Scientific Director of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.  My role is to create research opportunities for Indigenous communities, new investigators, academics so that we can address the health and social disparities that continue to plague Indigenous people in Canada.  When I am not working, I do my best to be in the community and volunteer my time whenever I possibly can.”