3 min

Homophobic emails were altered, Garcia-Ortiz admits

Heritage College dust-up with lesbian ex-student continues

DOCTORED. In this email, allegedly from a Heritage College prof, the word 'from' does not line up with the email address that appears after it.

Homophobic emails allegedly sent last fall by a Heritage College nursing instructor may have been doctored, Capital Xtra has learned.

Former nursing student Ninoska Garcia-Ortiz, 31, the alleged victim of homophobic emails, admits the emails were “graphically altered.” She wouldn’t say who modified these emails, but says that Heritage College “knows why the emails were altered.”

Garcia-Ortiz says the alleged emails can be verified with the Hotmail server, but she says she no longer has access to her email account.

Allegations that the documents were altered first surfaced on a science blog Apr 4.

PZ Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, wrote that “this whole story may be a product of a slighted student’s imagination.”

When asked via email his opinion of the emails’ veracity, Myers says “careful scrutiny shows that they may have been Photoshopped: the ‘from’ field of the email looks like it was pasted in over a different source.”

“It’s also suspicious that the full emails, with headers, haven’t been released,” says Myers.

The emails contain anti-gay material, including:

* “As a nurse, I have to advocate for my patients, and I feel that female patients will be uncomfortable having a lesbian nurse caring for them.”

* “I myself am not homophobic at all, but I would not want a lesbian nurse caring for me when I am vulnerable. I just would not feel comfortable with that.” And;

* “It would look better if you left nursing out of your own accord, rather than get kicked out.”

Last January, Garcia-Ortiz filed a complaint with Quebec Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sport against her professor, Tassy Kingsley. She felt an unfair evaluation led to her failing a course.

Heritage College ordered an investigation from Centre Collegial des Services Regroupe. An official statement on its website says the investigation found “neither the College nor its nursing department had exhibited behaviours that could in any way have been construed as harassment, discrimination or homophobia. It also found that the student’s expulsion from the nursing department was fully justified. Lastly, it found no proof to corroborate the student’s claim that a College instructor had sent her an inappropriate email.”

Heritage College academic dean Jo Anne Werner says Garcia-Ortiz failed to “prove the college instructor had sent the emails.” When asked if she believed the alleged emails were forged, she says, “the internet community says the emails were forged.”

She also had strong words for Capital Xtra, who published a full version of Garcia-Ortiz’s account on the same day that an Ottawa Citizen article gave a vague run-down of the accusations.

“You’re not very objective, are you?” Werner says. “Did you ever think you were being used by [Garcia-Ortiz]? How much of the facts do you know? She failed to provide sufficient evidence that the emails were true.”

Reached at home, Tassy Kingsley made a brief statement.

“I put in an official complaint of harassment against [Ninoska Garcia-Ortiz]. It was found that she was harassing me. She has been asked to leave the college,” says Tassy Kingsley from her home.

After the documents were posted on earlier this year, Kingsley says she received angry emails at her home and work email address. She won’t say whether or not she plans on taking legal action.

“I don’t want my name dragged through the mud any longer,” says Kingsley.

Garcia-Ortiz says she had no reason to comply with the college’s requests during the investigation because she believes it was biased. She also complains Werner broke her confidentiality during the investigation and outed her sexuality to her former classmates last March.

Under Heritage College’s Policy #5 Relating to the Evaluation of Student Achievement, Article 4: Rights and responsibilities that “students have the right to confidentiality with regard to access to any evaluation information that may serve to identify them.”

Werner defends her actions in maintaining Garcia-Ortiz broke her own confidentiality when she posted information on the internet and talked with newspapers.

“I did say to [Garcia-Ortiz’s] class that a complaint had been filed by her. Breach of confidence? The breach of confidence was done by her, not by the college. She wasn’t outed by me. Frankly, I had no information on her sexuality. It was immaterial,” says Werner.

Garcia-Ortiz says she plans to take her case “to the next level” with legal action and further comment will come from her lawyer, Caroline Simard.

Simard did not respond to requests for an interview.