Confidential university documents leaked to True North reveal troubling times within Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Social Work, characterized by the Indigenous faculty members and the black dean accusing each other of racism.

At the centre of the conflict is Kathy Hogarth, then dean of the social work department. 

Hogarth currently chairs the Canadian Military Colleges Review Board, a position to which she was appointed by Defense Minister Bill Blair in December 2023.

Hogarth is now in charge of deciding if Canada’s two Royal Military Colleges should continue to exist, and if so, what their curriculum should look like.

A scroll through Kathy Hogarth’s X account (which she deleted after being contacted for this article) could certainly convince onlookers that she has contempt for those with peachy complexions. 

“I need to socialize my white colleagues to the idea that I am not their Black Jesus,” she posted online in November 2021. “I cannot magically dismantle the system of white mediocrity they hold a vice grip on.”

But as it turns out, white people aren’t a factor in the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Social Work diversity dysfunction at all.

The September 7th faculty retreat

Professors in the faculty of social work had some pre-existing grievances with Hogarth: they found her untransparent about hiring decisions and said she had a generally uncollegial attitude. But it was at a faculty retreat in September 2022 that the showdown between Hogarth and the Indigenous Field of Study (IFS) social work faculty came to a head.

The IFS describes itself as a distinct program within the faculty that is based on Indigenous “traditions, languages, and territorial protocols.”

The IFS asked to participate in the retreat remotely because its members were still scared of contracting COVID, but Hogarth had a preference for the department’s members to appear in-person. Hogarth allowed the IFS team to participate remotely in the morning, but said the afternoon session was not conducive to virtual participation and in the afternoon. The IFS team said they experienced feelings of “confusion and exclusion.”

With outcry, the in-person faculty attendees created a new Zoom link for the IFS to participate in the afternoon session, and Hogarth “relented,” though she did not apologize. 

The IFS team later claimed Hogarth’s “exclusion” of them was “an act of anti-indigenous racism” and “colonial violence,” and that Hogarth had employed “strategies of exclusion, divide, conquer and misuse of power.”

Prior to the retreat, Hogarth had asked the Indigenous faculty elders to give a land acknowledgement on the day of the retreat, but the elders felt her request was “performative” and they refused. Hogarth ended up delivering the land acknowledgement, and then asked someone from the IFS to comment on the significance of land acknowledgements. 

“This is not what we agreed on. Why are you asking us this? This is not our responsibility,” an IFS team member replied.

Hogarth later recounted in a report that the faculty were “rowdy” during the retreat, interrupting her and challenging her decisions, and that they wrote phrases like “less colonialism” and “less bullshit” on the end-of-day feedback notes. Hogarth interpreted this as “implicit racism.”

“Bloodied and bruised”: The September 15th, 2022 email

Following the retreat, Hogarth sent out an email to the department faculty and senior leadership, which was obtained by True North:

As one of less than a handful of Black Deans in Canada, I cannot divorce my Blackness from my leadership identity. The experiences of colonialism are embedded in my DNA. The enactment of colonial violence on my Black body is unrelenting.

After being bloodied and bruised at the Faculty Retreat, and nursing the bloodiness of the day, I was forced to dry my tears, put a smile on my face and go welcome a new cadre of students to our institution. And I ask, how can I do that with integrity after witnessing and experiencing such violence at the hands of social work ‘professionals’? Yet, I had to be strong because that is what is expected. 

As a leader, and more so as a Black woman leader, there is always a justling for power. I saw that. I saw the subtle and not so subtle attempts at destabilizing, the micro-invalidations and the micro insults. Anti-black racism was as real and alive as it has ever been on Wednesday. As painful as it is, I am naming that.

We can choose toxicity – The kind of toxicity that I have observed and that the faculty of social work seems to be known for across this institution and beyond. We can also choose to break free and work towards healthy community. I will not join the toxic. I will not engage in the violence. Those are not negotiable. I challenge you, both perpetrators of violence and bystanders to do better. Both the bystander and the perpetrator are equal participants in enacting violence.

The September 19th letter

Days after Hogarth’s email, the tenured faculty sent the higher-ups of Laurier a petition to have Hogarth removed as dean, claiming a “crisis of leadership.”

The letter stated, “given the recent events we have reached a point where we do not have confidence in the Dean and ask for an immediate change in leadership.”

The petition was endorsed “with the unanimous support of all 16 tenured faculty of the Faculty of Social Work (FSW).”

The professors wrote that Hogarth’s Sept. 15 email had been “extremely distressing.”

“Unfortunately, the toxic and violent climate at the FSW as a result of Dr. Hogarth’s actions have deeply impacted morale, weakening our sense of belonging and community, and have negatively impacted faculty members’ wellbeing.”

“The anti-Indigenous racism enacted by the Dean is in itself completely unacceptable. Under no circumstances should any faculty member be intentionally excluded from participating in collegial meetings, especially a meeting designed to foster community and engage in planning,” read the faculty petition.

“We are concerned about and question her ability to lead us in meaningful decolonizing or equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work,” the text stated.

The Indigenous faculty’s accompanying September 19th letter

Along with the tenured faculty’s letter calling for Hogarth to be replaced as dean, the IFS team sent its own letter to the senior executives of Wilfrid Laurier University. 

“We have recently experienced colonial violence and anti-Indigenous racism at the hands of our Dean… the Dean did not respect our governance structure and decision-making around remaining remote, and thus explicitly set out to exclude the IFS from participating in the Faculty visioning part of the retreat (the afternoon session).” 

“During our remote participation, she was actively violent towards the IFS team as witnessed by our FSW colleagues.”

“September 7 resulted in the team feeling unsafe in the workplace and unable to rely on the Dean to represent the interests of the IFS,” they continued. “This marginalizing experience was harmful and humiliating and unnecessary given the virtual world we have been navigating for two years.”

In reference to Hogarth’s Sept. 15 “bloodied and bruised” email, the IFS wrote that “an inflammatory letter was sent by the Dean to all faculty members (and copied the senior administration) that… misrepresents the actual situation and was defamation of the IFS team. This letter was aggressive and assaultive leaving members of the team more mistrustful of the dean.”

“We no longer have confidence in the leadership of this Dean, and now we regrettably feel a change in leadership is necessary effective immediately,” the IFS wrote.

A university-wide email was sent out Nov. 7, 2022: “Laurier has appointed Dr. Kathy Hogarth as Associate Vice President, Global Strategy, effective November 7, 2022 until June 30, 2026.”

The position was created for Hogarth and given to her: no past job postings exist online advertising it, at least under that name.

The faculty of social work appointed an interim dean, and Hogarth got promoted out of the department.

Investigation one: Toxic workplace

Wilfrid Laurier University retained Oakville, Ont. law firm Lakhani Campea LLP to conduct two formal investigations within the department: one regarding a toxic workplace, and another regarding “anti-indigenous and anti-black racism.”

Each investigation resulted in written reports completed in September 2023, which were recently leaked to True North. 

According to True North’s source, Wilfrid Laurier University initially kept the reports under wraps: faculty members could only view them in a room under supervision without electronic devices. However, the faculty union got involved to lift this requirement. 

In the toxic workplace report, witnesses described the social work department as cliquey, scary, and tense. 

Staff witnesses stated Hogarth “was treated poorly during the Retreat,” and that the faculty never respected the authority of past deans either, as they were pushing for a non-hierarchical co-dean model.

The investigator found that the department was an intimidating and hostile workplace, and determined that the FSW staff are subjected to a poisoned work environment as defined by university policy.

Investigation two: Indigenous vs. Black Racism

The racism investigation report was much longer than the toxic workplace report – 10 pages instead of five.

“The Indigenous Field of Study Team and tenured faculty submitted complaints against Dean Kathy Hogarth involving, in part, allegations of anti-indigenous racism. In her response, Dr. Hogarth made allegations of anti-Black racism against Faculty, and the IFS Team,” the Lakhani Campea LLP report read.

The IFS team alleged that Hogarth “demonstrated a pattern of problematic behaviours and engaged in anti-Indigenous racism and colonial violence.” Specifically, Hogarth’s “exclusion” of the IFS Team from the afternoon session of the Retreat was “an act of anti-Indigenous racism.”

According to the report, a member of the IFS team suggested to Hogarth that by excluding them at the retreat, Hogarth is “worse than the federal government who had taken Indigenous children from their communities.”

Faculty also accused Hogarth of being an “autocratic” and “non-collaborative” leader.

For her part, Hogarth claimed she was subject to workplace violence, microaggressions, and anti-black racism. One example of racism Hogarth cited was that a faculty member commented on Hogarth’s hair and also said they “sometimes forget that Black people can be smart.”

(In fact, Hogarth’s official bio on the Wilfrid Laurier University website reads, “I am Black… I have always been Black, but that fact never mattered as much until I entered white space.  Then, my Blackness seemed to matter more than any other aspect of my identity… So much so, even in this position as Dean, colleagues remind me that I can be smart as a Black woman.  So, I say to you I am Black – unapologetically Black!”)

The racism report also revealed that some tenured faculty members had been bullied into signing the letter calling for Hogarth’s removal as dean, and that there wasn’t, in fact, agreement among all 16 tenured faculty members to fire Hogarth.

Ultimately, the investigator found that although Hogarth’s Sept. 15 email used racially insensitive descriptors, she had not engaged in any outright anti-Indigenous racism – or herself been subjected to any anti-black racism.

“It was not found that Dr. Hogarth was subjected to targeted anti-Black racism from a particular party,” the report read. 

“While there appears to be a general reluctance from Faculty to accept Dr. Hogarth’s decanal leadership and authority, it was not found that this conduct constitutes racism or racial discrimination as defined in the Policy.” 

Hogarth made just under $200,000 as her 2022 salary, according to the Ontario Sunshine List.

Hogarth did not respond to request for comment and her email auto-response stated she was “on leave” indefinitely. She deleted her X profile upon being contacted for this article.

An unnamed spokesperson from Wilfrid Laurier University told True North, “Due to HR confidentiality, Wilfrid Laurier University cannot provide information on personnel matters to the media.”


  • Lindsay Shepherd

    Lindsay holds an M.A. in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has been published in The Post Millennial, Maclean’s, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, and Quillette.