TORONTO (LifeSiteNews) — Officials have promised to investigate the suicide of a Toronto school principal bullied for maintaining that Canada is a less racist country than the United States.
On July 24, Ontario Education Minister Stephan Lecce ordered an inquiry into the death of 60-year-old Richard Bilkszto, a beloved school principal in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) who committed suicide on July 13 after being bullied for defending his country at a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training session.
“The stress and effects of these incidents continued to plague Richard,” a statement from his family read. “Last week, he succumbed to this distress.”
In 2021, TDSB sent Bilkszto to DEI training at the KOJO Institute, where he faced bullying after maintaining that Canada is not a more racist country than the United States.
“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,” he told the class, according to the National Post.
Bilkszto was rebuked and belittled for his response by KOJO training facilitator Kike Ojo-Thompson, who responded, “We are here to talk about anti-Black racism, but you in your whiteness think that you can tell me what’s really going on for Black people?”
In addition to other TDSB employees failing to defend Bilkszto, he was berated by his superiors the next day on his “male white privilege” and the “fallout” from the training.
During the next training session, Ojo-Thompson apparently used Bilkszto’s comments as examples of “resistance” to maintain white supremacy and encouraged others in the session to stand up if they witness others being “accosted by white supremacy.”
After the session, Bilkszto went on sick leave for workplace harassment. While TDSB failed to defend him, the Toronto School Administrators’ Association and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) supported Bilkszto and called for an investigation. WSIB awarded Bilkszto loss of earnings for his leave.
However, when Bilkszto later returned to work, TDSB denied him the role that he previously held and revoked his work contract for the upcoming year. Additionally, Bilkszto was disinvited from attending a graduation ceremony.
Bilkszto filed a lawsuit against TDSB seeking $785,000 in damages for failing to defend him from what he described as a hostile environment during DEI training sessions in April 2021. In response, TDSB filed a suit against KOJO Institute for negligence and for breaching contract through their treatment of Bilkszto.
Following Bilkszto’s suicide, Lecce ordered an investigation into his claims of workplace bullying.
He referred to Bilkszto’s story as “serious and disturbing” and is seeking “options to reform professional training and strengthen accountability on school boards so this never happens again.”
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of the late Richard Bilkszto, a lifelong educator and former principal with the TDSB,” read the statement from Grace Lee, spokeswoman for Lecce. “We send our deepest condolences to those who knew and loved him and share in mourning his loss.”
Similarly, TDSB expressed its condolences, writing, “TDSB is in the process of gathering information to better understand the events that occurred. While we are in the early stages of the information gathering process, we share the Ministry of Education’s desire to learn what happened and will work together with them as part of any review and make any necessary changes.”
As a principal, Bilkszto fought for the rights of all people, working to establish the Toronto chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), an advocacy organization dedicated to civil rights and anti-discrimination.
“Richard’s passing serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of community and supporting those around us who are courageous enough to stand firm in their beliefs,” FAIR wrote in a statement.