By Howard Levitt
Her message was too much for Bilkszto who, citing public health care and a more equal funding system for education: “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 said.
Ojo-Thompson reacted with what I would call vitriol: “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?” She concluded the exchange by telling the class, “Your job in this work as white people is to believe” — not to question claims of racism (remember this was to a group of senior educators). She encouraged everyone to push back when they see others being “accosted by white supremacy.”
Nobody from TDSB interjected to stop its DEI trainer from berating a staff member. On the contrary, the day after, Bilkszto was reprimanded for his “male white privilege” and the “fallout” from the training. Instead of defending him, the TDSB berated him further. So much for the I (inclusion) in DEI.
It got worse.
In the next session, Ojo-Thompson continued to refer to Bilkszto’s comments as an example of “resistance” that upholds white supremacy, implicitly branding this longtime anti-racism activist as a racist.
Bilkszto fell into a depression and, despite his association asking the TDSB to investigate, it did nothing.
He applied for and won workers’ compensation benefits for being almost two months off work.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) was so outraged by Ojo-Thompson’s conduct that it concluded: “I am satisfied that the conduct of the speaker … was abusive, egregious and vexatious, and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying.”
Citing Bilkszto’s evidence, which the TDSB did not dispute, the tribunal added: “The speaker (Ojo-Thompson) purposefully chose to address you publicly twice, on a week apart, calling you a white supremacist and resistor in front of two hundred colleagues and senior administrators. This conduct took place for over an hour, and noting that the speaker had sufficient opportunity to address you privately between those dates, it would suggest that the speaker did so with the intent to cause reputational damage and to ‘make an example’ of you. You were also referred to as a ‘problem’ that had to be dealt with.”