Saskatoon college instructor let go over racist comments posted on social media

A Saskatoon college confirms that a hair styling instructor who was being investigated for racist comments is no longer employed with the institution.

The MC College in Saskatoon, Sask., had previously suspended a staff member without pay while it investigated screenshots posted on social media, last weekend.

The personal messages were shared on Facebook by Tami Eileen Whitehawk and widely shared.

The messages were from Chelsea Kowalchuk, a hair styling instructor at the college.

“Hahaha sorry you’re a fat ugly bitch that his family hates!!! You are an Indian let’s face it his family disowns you. You are pathetic.  You will never compare to me!!!” Kowalchuk wrote to Whitehawk.

Another shared message says, “Haha sorry you’re a pathetic broke Indian.’

Joe Cairo, the president of MC College says “this even has been upsetting to our entire staff across all 6 locations and all of our students.  This does not reflect our organization, our core value or our mission.”

Whitehawk is not a student at the school but is in a relationship with Kowalchuk’s ex-husband and was in an online exchange with her at the time.

“I don’t believe this is the way a MC college teacher should act,” Whitehawk responded. “Telling me I’m ugly because I’m native.  Awful, college.”

Whitehawk, from the Cote First Nation, said she posted the messages online to expose Kowalchuk.

She told APTN News that the attacks have been going on for six months.

Cairo says Saskatoon’s campus director spoke with Whitehawk on Sept. 16 and apologized directly to her.

According to the college Cairo the incident “also made us reflect on further steps we need to make to insure our values are shared by all our staff.”

Cairo says one way the college is doing that is sourcing out “culturally sensitivity training for all staff to participate in.  It’s an effort to make sure we learn and grow and that our students feel safe and valued while receiving their education.”

Whitehawk says “moving forward this is a lesson for everyone that this type of behaviour and attitude can long happen in today’s society.”

Host/Producer - Winnipeg

Dennis is Metis from southern Manitoba. After spending a decade working in TV in Alberta and Ontario, Dennis returned to Manitoba to join APTN’s Winnipeg bureau as reporter/correspondent in September 2014. In 2016, he won a Canadian Association of Journalists award for his story A Soldier Scorned for APTN Investigates. In 2017, he became a host/producer for APTN National News and Face to Face. In 2020, Dennis and co host Melissa Ridgen were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best News Anchor, National.