The WOKE alliance and DEI for a fistful of Dollars
TORONTO – By all accounts, Richard Bilkszto was a good person: recognized for his dedication to the obligations of his profession as a teacher and as a principal. He was also a co-founding member of the local [Ontario] chapter of a North American Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR).
Without diminishing the breadth of its scope and intent, FAIR is a non-profit, nonpartisan contemporary humanist movement/organization (see https://www.fairforall.org/). Its members commit to a body of principles and actions applicable to anyone in any circumstance.
Those “circumstances” are not predetermined by religious affiliation, “gender ideology” or by [activist] critical race theory.
Members of FAIR take a pledge to (1) defend civil rights and liberties, (2) advocate for individuals who are threatened, (3) support respectful disagreement. (https://www.fairforall.org/)
In 2021, Richard Bilkszto, despite this background and having taught in a racialized community in Buffalo, New York, agreed to take part in a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) seminar for staff at the TDSB. According to the Free Press, The KOJO Institute was retained by the Board for an alleged $60,000 to conduct four (4), two-hour seminars to that end.
During the delivery costing $7,500 per hour, the presenter, KOJO Institute, made some claims regarding Canada’s systemic racism that he, Bilkszto, in his experience, found unsupportable and unsustainable.
It was all downhill from there as KOJO’s chief presenter, Kike Ojo-Thompson, began a character assassination exercise on Bilkszto. The system at TDSB rallied around KOJO, an ardent promoter of Critical Race Theory, instead of its employee. The latter resorted to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for relief from workplace harassment and bullying. He was deprived of his contracts.
After the meeting, Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini, the executive superintendent of education, thanked Ojo-Thompson for enlightening them. ‘When faced with resistance to addressing Anti-Black racism, we can’t remain silent as it reinforces harm to Black students and families,’ Petrazzini wrote.
After investigating Bilkszto’s complaints, the WSIB decided in his favour. In April 2023, he sued for damages, essentially because the TDSB had not provided a safe working environment (emphasis added).
On July 13, Richard Bilkszto succumbed to suicide [attributable to the distresses endured]. Digital and legacy media, both in Canada and around the English-speaking world, have taken to reporting new items virtually daily while trying to maintain a sense of decorum, given the death.
Following some intense pressure, Minister for Education Stephen Lecce relented and called for a review of the circumstances. Lawyers calling into our offices continue to insist that this is a criminal case matter and that the police should be investigating.
On August 2, 2023, activists supporting KOJO Institute rallied in front of Queen’s Park. The event itself and the signage suggested an attempt to “racialize” the issues around the suicide. There were no flags, no buttons/stickers of support from their allies in the LGBT community, and certainly no in person support that anyone could see – even though their headquarters are less than a kilometer away. And Bilkszto was a gay single man.
From our perspective, it is fast approaching a public relations disaster for DEI advocates.
The Free Press reported Ari Goldkind, a Toronto attorney reflecting that “DEI consultants and the institutions that hire them need to realize their programs can have horrendous, real-world consequences [… and …] the DEI training session become much more litigious, with attendees who feel put upon or hurt or maligned, dangerously maligned – meaning they’re ostracized or rendered unemployable – [and] striking back in court”.
He added “people are sick and tired of being isolated and cast out from polite society because they have the gall to ask a question or to challenge [activist] orthodoxy.”