Toronto Trustee Calls for Pause on DEI Training Pending Probe Following Principal’s Suicide

Toronto Trustee Calls for Pause on DEI Training Pending Probe Following Principal’s Suicide
A TDSB building in Toronto in a file photo. (JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock)
Marnie Cathcart

A Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustee is calling for a pause to all diversity, equity, and inclusion training (DEI) workshops until an investigation is conducted into the events that may have contributed to the suicide of a former principal who was suing the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

In a Twitter post on July 23, trustee Markus de Domenico asked his fellow TCDSB trustees to back his request to stop all DEI workshops until Ontario’s Ministry of Education and the TDSB investigate and audit all DEI materials and the suppliers who are providing the training.
Mr. de Domenico’s comments come following a July 21 statement from the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) regarding retired principal Richard Bilkszto, who committed suicide following bullying he said he experienced at a series of DEI workshops that included suggestions he was a white supremacist.

“We need to learn from these tragic events and ensure the safety of participants and allow qualified presenters to enrich our staff. That’s not what happened,” said Mr. De Domenico.

The OPC said employers have an obligation to protect their staff from bullying and harassment and that the TDSB clearly failed to do so.

The council said in its statement on Twitter that it is “deeply saddened and disturbed” by Mr. Bilkszto’s death and that “the health and wellness of principals and vice-principals across Ontario continues to be a priority for the OPC.”

“Employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment and to protect their staff from bullying and harassment, including from external service providers. As was determined by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the TDSB failed to do so for Mr. Bilkszto.”

The council added that it is “deeply concerned about the potential for this type of harm to occur to other educators” and that “all efforts must be made to prevent this from ever happening again.”


Mr. Bilkszto’s lawyer, Lisa Bildy, on July 20 announced that her client, who had worked for the TDSB for 24 years, had died on July 13 at his home in Toronto at age 60. Ms. Bildy said Mr. Bilkszto experienced an “affront to that stellar reputation in the spring of 2021, causing him severe mental distress.”

“Unfortunately, the stress and effects of these incidents continued to plague Richard. Last week he succumbed to this distress,” said his lawyer. “His family and friends have been left reeling and wishing they could have had the chance to convince him that he was loved, respected and needed here.”

A WSIB ruling found that Mr. Bilkszto “had been the subject of workplace bullying after a series of ‘Equity Sessions’ coordinated by the TDSB and provided by the KOJO Institute.”

According to a July 6 National Post column, the WSIB ruling stated: “Based on the information on file, I am satisfied that the conduct of the speaker … was abusive, egregious and vexatious, and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying.”

The board ruled that the DEI instructor intended to “cause reputational damage and to ‘make an example’” of Mr. Bilkszto.

The KOJO Institute bills itself as a “leader in equity consulting” and was founded by Kike Ojo-Thompson, its CEO, who describes herself as “an anti-racism and anti-Black racism educator, speaker, and organizational change facilitator.”

‘Struggle Sessions’

Mr. Bilkszto had filed a civil lawsuit this spring against the TDSB, alleging he had been bullied during the DEI training sessions in 2021. There, Ms. Ojo-Thompson reportedly said his comments were an example of “resistance” that upholds white supremacy after he said her argument that Canada is a more racist place than the United States was “doing an incredible disservice to our learners.”

The TDSB and Ms. Ojo-Thompson did not respond to requests for comment by The Epoch Times.

Ms. Bildy said that the school board needs to learn from this situation.

“Part of Richard’s legacy should be that we stop walking on eggshells and seriously examine the purpose, process, and value of this type of DEI training,” she told the Epoch Times on July 23.

“These workshops are often designed to feel like struggle sessions for the participants. People are supposed to ‘do the work’ of ’sitting in their discomfort.' We should be demanding proof that this sort of training improves race relations or benefits anyone at all, other than the well-paid trainer,” added Ms. Bildy.