A Sarnia city councillor had his fill of the 'diversity, equity, inclusion' rhetoric barely one hour into a session with fellow council members.
Bill Dennis told True North he opposed the "critical race theory" being peddled by trainer Kike Ojo-Thompson of the KOJO Institute.
"She's very, very militant," he said. "She was very self-righteous, smug and condescending."
Though the Ontario Municipal Association told the Sarnia City Council that the training would help international students feel welcomed, it became clear the two-hour shindig was a waste of time.
For $6,000, the sessions for city staff, council and local law enforcement quickly turned into a "radical [session]" telling white people "you should feel ashamed of yourself," according to Dennis.
"I had a heck of a time with her…it was a horrible experience."
The city councillor told True North that Ojo-Thompson "cut short" the session after he accused her of wasting their time. Though she never engaged in similar sessions with the police, she kept her entire stipend, courtesy of Sarnia taxpayers.
On behalf of the trainer, KOJO sent a letter to the city council a week later, claiming some councillors' alleged "hostility" led to the sessions ending prematurely.
"She didn't feel safe even though we were at a Zoom meeting…which was a real joke," said Dennis, as they worried over publicly releasing "trade secrets."
The letter from KOJO was subsequently leaked to the media in 2022 to harm his reputation before the local elections. However, he secured his re-election bid with the highest vote count of all councillors.
The election's aftermath proved terrifying for Dennis, as an unknown number of assailants keyed his car, sent him angry calls and "horrible messages" on his cellphone, and a menacing letter threatening to kill his Golden Retriever.
"The cancel culture mob… these people are nuts," he said. "It was absolutely brutal."
This marks the second time KOJO has faced pushback from reputable public officials and administrators for supposedly peddling divisive rhetoric involving Ojo-Thompson.
On April 26 and May 3, 2021, Toronto principal Richard Bilkszto attended similar training sessions organized by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).
He hoped they would advocate bringing people together through "a more equality-focused, pro-human approach." Instead, Ojo-Thompson argued Canada is a "bastion of white supremacy and colonialism."
According to a National Post column, Bilkszto said her remarks "do an incredible disservice to our learners," citing public health care and an equal funding system for education as examples disproving her ideas.
At the next session, Ojo-Thompson reportedly said Bilkszto's comments upheld "white supremacy" in an attempt to derail the conversation.
Bilkszto subsequently went on a six-week sick leave for workplace harassment. Upon his return, he lost his employment.
In a lawsuit filed this spring, he claimed the alleged defamation breached his contract and sued for $785,000 in damages.
TDSB eventually ruled that Ojo-Thompson wanted to "cause reputational damage and to 'make an example'" of Bilkszto.
On July 13, the Toronto principal committed suicide as the harassment and accusations of "white supremacy" became too great for him to bear.
Dennis said he felt "sick to his stomach" when he heard that Bilkszto had ended his life. "As far as I'm concerned, Richard is a hero…to take a stand like he did."
The city councillor said that just like Ojo-Thompson did with Bilkszto, she played the race and woman card against those who challenged her ideas and peddled many of the same ideas relayed in Bilkszto's statement of claim.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has since ordered a review of the incident and all diversity, equity, and inclusion training "so this never happens again."
He said this matter is "serious" and "disturbing," as "no staff member should ever be subject to harassment while in their place of work."