Toronto school board trustee wants ‘diversity’ training with KOJO institute suspended, pending results of investigation into principal’s death

Trustee Weidong Pei wants the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to issue ‘a commitment to fully cooperate with the Ministry of Education’s inquiry into the broader circumstances of Richard [Bilkszto’s] death.’

Toronto school board trustee wants ‘diversity’ training with KOJO institute suspended, pending results of investigation into principal’s death
JHVEPhoto - and Facebook/ Weidong Pei
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A Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee is voicing concerns on its continued dealings with a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) firm following the suicide of a Toronto-area principal.

Weidong Pei wants the school board to suspend all training with the KOJO Institute after Richard Bilkszto, 60, committed suicide after allegations of workplace bullying by a consultant.

Pei recently emailed TDSB director Colleen Russell-Rawlins, demanding they suspended all dealings with the KOJO Institute “pending the results of the investigation into Richard’s death.”

Pei also wants the board to issue “a fitting remembrance of the life and contributions to the TDSB of Richard Bilkszto” — who served as a Toronto-area principal for 24 years — “and a commitment to fully cooperate with the Ministry of Education’s inquiry into the broader circumstances of Richard’s death.”

On April 26, 2021, KOJO trainer Kike Ojo-Thompson argued that Canada is a "bastion of white supremacy and colonialism," irking Bilkszto during a session organized by the board.

According to a National Post column, the principal 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.

Ojo-Thompson replied: "We are here to talk about anti-black racism, but you, in your whiteness, think that you can tell me what's going on for black people?"

The following week, she reportedly said Bilkszto's comments upheld "white supremacy" in an attempt to derail the conversation. 

Bilkszto subsequently went on sick leave for workplace harassment but lost his employment upon returning six weeks later.

A Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) ruling in 2021 found Ojo-Thompson's conduct "abusive, egregious and vexatious and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying" in her treatment of the former principal.

As first reported by True North, he filed a $750,000 lawsuit this spring against TDSB, alleging a breach of contract, defamation of character and reprisal by the board’s senior administrators after he was allegedly repeatedly labelled a “white supremacist,” shamed and humiliated. 

The lawsuit claims that despite TDSB ruling that Ojo-Thompson intended to "cause [him] reputational damage," they reneged on Bilkszto’s contract at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate when he returned from sick leave. He also had other contracts revoked and failed to get other internal positions.

While Bilkszto did not serve the board his lawsuit before his untimely passing, TDSB announced they had retained the King International Advisory Group to conduct its own investigation.

“Our intention is for this investigation to be conducted in a professional, sensitive and respectful manner,” reads a statement from the board.

“We express our continued condolences to Richard’s family, friends and colleagues. Our Employee and Family Assistance Program remains available at any time for staff in need.”

On Tuesday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bilkszto’s death, as well as the DEI materials. The school board maintains its training sessions for staff are “important.”

Lecce, who called the situation “serious” and “disturbing,” said the review is necessary “so this never happens again.” 

KOJO and Ojo-Thompson also faced pushback from a Sarnia city councillor for supposedly peddling divisive rhetoric.

Bill Dennis told True North he had his fill of the DEI training barely one hour into a session with fellow council members.

"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 sought to peddle “critical race theory.”

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."

KOJO and TDSB have yet to return a request for comment by True North at the time of writing.

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  • By Tamara Ugolini


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