Racist image of AMS executive candidate made public

Current AMS executive condemns the behaviour

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
Elisabeth McHarg

This article discusses anti-Black racism and may be distressing to some readers. The Black Youth Helpline can be reached toll free at 1-833-294-8650. The Peer Support Centre and BIPOC Talk can be accessed here

At the AMS executive and undergraduate trustee debate held on Feb. 2 in Theological Hall, an incident occurred involving one of the candidates.

Several students were air-dropped a saved Snapchat image from a device called “iPhone.” The image in question was of Elisabeth McHarg, ArtSci ’23, an AMS vice-president (operations) candidate from team ERA.

The image—which The Journal has elected not to re-publish for the safety of Black students on campus—shows McHarg eating a piece of watermelon. In the photo, her skin appears several shades darker than it is currently. The image includes a caption that reads: “Just your average black [sic] girl eating some watermelown [sic].”

In a written statement to The Journal, McHarg explained the image was from 2017 when she was 16 years old. She learned about the airdropping incident after the conclusion of the debate. 

“I am not proud of my actions in the image, nor do I deny them. Regardless of the nature of the image, it was inappropriate and unbecoming then, and I undoubtedly continue to regret the remark since,” McHarg said. 

“I take full accountability for the image and associated harmful messaging. I am remorseful that this image has been purposefully resurfaced, creating further negative impacts of people in equity-deserving groups.” 

McHarg said becoming a member of the Queen’s community has helped her understand the nuances of racism and the world. She said her experiences in high school have informed the ways in which she can be a better leader in the future. 

Before entering Queen’s, McHarg said she grew up in a “majority-white, upper-middle class neighbourhood.” She said this gave her immense privilege.

“I have continued to grow my understanding and appreciation for people of different positionalities through my involvement in leadership positions within the Queen’s student body.”

In speaking about the past, she encouraged everyone to reflect and hold themselves accountable to create an inclusive future together. 

“This image is a shameful reminder of my past […] This misstep doesn’t mean I can’t contribute positively to the student body through continued leadership,” McHarg said. 

On the future of Team ERA—consisting of presidential candidate Ryan Chen, Kin ’23, and vice-president (university affairs) candidate Alicia Parker, ArtSci ’24—McHarg said she wants to ensure ERA’s goals of revitalising community, improving wellness, increasing financial accessibility, and provide positive experiences are met. 

“I understand the weight of my actions of the past and impact it has on the future, and therefore, if Team ERA is elected in, I will step down from the role of [vice-president (operations)],” McHarg said. 

“This allows me to take accountability for my actions while simultaneously making positive change for the Queen’s student body and future students.” 

The current AMS executive—President Eric Sikich, Vice-President (Operations) Tina Hu, and Vice-President (University Affairs) Callum Robertson—formally condemned the image in a statement to The Journal on Feb. 3.

“The AMS would like to officially recognize and condemn the behaviour demonstrated in the image mentioned. These actions do not align with the core values the AMS tries to uphold, which include to be free of historic, systemic, and institutional forms of discrimination in all its forms,” the AMS executive said. 

According to the executive, the AMS has undertaken “sufficient inquiry” into the situation and has determined that an official investigation isn’t warranted. 

“There is nothing within our constitution or electoral policy applicable to this situation that would give us the opportunity to make a change in the electoral process to not go forward as planned.”

The current AMS executive believes the results of the AMS election will fall in the hands of student voters on election day, on Feb. 6 and 7.


2023 student elections, AMS, AMS executive, AMS executive election, racism, scandal

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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