According to his lawyer, a former principal with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) tragically took his own life after facing years of accusations of white supremacy for defending his country during a DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) training event.
In 2019, Richard Bilkszto entered semi-retirement after more than 20 years of service with the TDSB. He devoted his life to helping non-traditional students, particularly recent immigrants and those in adult education.
In 2021, Bilkszto and other administrators participated in a DEI training session conducted by the KOJO Institute. The institute’s mission, as stated on its website, is to provide innovative solutions that lead to equitable outcomes, foster a positive culture and bring about transformative results.
Allegedly, during the training, KOJO Institute founder Kike Ojo-Thompson suggested Canada was a “more racist place than the U.S.” and a “bastion of white supremacy and colonialism.”
Following those remarks, Bilkszto, who was actively involved in SOS TDSB, a group advocating for merit-based admissions for specialty programs within the district, and also a member of the Toronto chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which fights against racism and advocates for civil rights, decided to speak up in defense of his country.
Bilikszto said, “To sit here and talk about facts and figures and then walk into the classroom tomorrow and say, ‘Canada is just as bad as the United States,’ I think we are doing an incredible disservice to our learners.”
Following his defense of Canada and the positive character of Canadians, Bilkszto allegedly faced a harrowing bullying campaign. The accusations labeling him as a white supremacist became so relentless and severe that he subsequently took a leave of absence from the district.
Eventually, he filed a successful workers’ compensation claim to recover lost earnings related to the incident.
Despite Bilkszto’s return to work after a month, he was not reinstated to his previous position. According to The National Pulse, the district took additional retaliatory measures against him, such as preventing him from attending a graduation ceremony that year and revoking his contract for the following school year. These actions were allegedly in response to his actions and statements during the diversity training.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board later investigated and determined that Bilkszto had indeed been a victim of workplace bullying, subjected to “abusive, egregious and vexatious” treatment from Ojo-Thompson.
This is a story that absolutely shocks me. https://t.co/4sBlhvn8zk
— Brian Lilley (@brianlilley) July 22, 2023
Two years after the training, in the spring, Bilkszto took legal action against TDSB, aiming to advocate for a more “equality-focused, pro-human approach” to education within the district. During this time, he was also caring for his ailing mother, who lived hours away.
Sadly, the relentless humiliation took a severe toll on Bilkszto, causing him immense mental distress. On July 13, at the age of 60, he tragically took his own life, according to his lawyer, Lisa Bildy. The weight of the circumstances proved overwhelming, resulting in a devastating outcome.