Diversity Training In Sarnia Full Story

There is a lot of information coming out about what is happening in the City of Sarnia right now that I think needs some clarifying.  At the risk of revealing things that were meant to stay in closed meetings, I think there are details that need to be shared to give a better overview of this for the public.  Here is my summary along with an order of events that would be hard to dissect based on the articles that are coming out along with some new information that I will share.

October 20, 2021 – There were questions about whether the diversity training should be done in a closed meeting.  KOJO Institute suggested that it not be made public because it was a training workshop and not really meant for public consumption and that it would be a safer learning environment without the live stream. Seeing as there was no other mechanism for a private, all-council meeting, it was decided to do this meeting in a closed session.  They actually wanted to record it but were told it would not be permitted since it was a closed session.  

Nov 15, 2021 – Sarnia City Council takes this Diversity training seminar in closed meeting (this means that it is not streamed to the public and it is not recorded).  This was led by brilliant Kike Ojo-Thompson with the KOJO Institute.  In this meeting there were a few councillors that were hostile, racist, sexist and completely disrespectful and inappropriate to Kike.  They chose to debate, insult, override her session and challenge the reason for taking training like this.  There were multiple opportunities for the mayor, who chairs every meeting, to step in and correct those councillors that were off base; he did not do that. Needless to say, the session was frustrating for those of us that really were learning and welcoming the instructor and her content.  A few of us councillors were embarrassed by the actions of the others and reached out to apologize and thank Kike for her patience and professionalism handling the inappropriate remarks and hostility that were aimed at her.

Dec 8, 2021 – KOJO Institute issues a letter to the City of Sarnia that was recently written about in the Sarnia Journal on Feb 22, 2022. In this letter it states “The undisputed, uncorrected, and unabated hostility demonstrated by some members of Council toward our Principal Consultant Kike Ojo-Thompson was wholly inappropriate.”  KOJO Institute had completed their contract with an opportunity to engage in future ones with the Sarnia Police and City of Sarnia but had decided to not engage future contracts with us.

Dec 13, 2021 – I made a motion in a closed meeting to make this letter public because I think the public should be made aware of what is going on within our leadership positions of the city.  In this closed meeting, Bill Dennis worried that this letter would become public and continued to scream and threaten me while saying:

“You might be seeing what 7,000 shares of Amazon stock will be buying in terms of legal ramifications. I’m saying that if this is released and it’s this sort of thing has been released to the public before. Councillor Colquhoun has made stuff public on his website before. I will come down like a hammer with a lawsuit.”

The motion did not pass and so the letter stayed confidential.

Dec 17, 2021 – I formally filed an integrity commissioner complaint against Bill Dennis for threatening to sue me for making a motion and for other insulting remarks to the mayor that he made. I also included in this complaint his demeanour in the diversity training class towards the instructor and quotes from an email thread after that I had with him where he accused the instructor of being a radical extremist and accused her of attempting to indoctrinate him.  Personally, I do not appreciate nor care about the Integrity Commissioner’s role – I find it a waste of taxpayer money and juvenile that we cannot simply let the public make their own decisions.  That said, since this was in a closed meeting, I thought the public had a right to know the actions of their elected officials and thus felt this was the best way to share it.

Feb 8, 2022 – The Integrity Commissioner sends a letter to me dismissing my complaint saying that he found insufficient grounds to investigate considering he could find no “harm to the public with respect to the conduct of a member at a closed meeting.”  The irony of the IC not being able to see how someone threatening someone else in private has nothing to do with integrity is not lost on me.

Feb 21, 2022 – The Sarnia Journal released two separate stories that were actually connected.  The first story was about the ending of the contract with KOJO Institute.  The second story was about the infighting and Integrity Commissioner complaints that have been filed.  The complaint I was speaking of in the one article was specifically about the actions and threats that came from Bill because of his stance on the diversity training session.  

The first article states: “It was a training session and not a council meeting so the mayor did not chair it, Bradley said. “Or I would have disrupted what they were trying to do.”

One is still chairing the meeting even if you have passed off the meeting for a presentation.  The mayor had the responsibility to interrupt and keep the meeting on track which he did not do.  While we all understand how difficult it is to get order on a Zoom call especially with some aggravators, I think it is an unfair position to take that he ‘would’ have if there was some different circumstance.  The fact is that he should have, and he didn’t.  It is also telling that the mayor knew that these other councillors were “trying to do” something.  I wonder what he thought they were trying to do?

Why is this important to me?  There is nothing more backwards for our city than powerful people building a platform of supporting Sarnia businesses and citizens for the purpose of building up their own reputation.  We have numerous racists and sexists on our council and it is becoming more and more blatant, but at the same time, these same people are building up social media followings trying to come across as someone that cares about the city.  So, it’s important to me because the public deserves to know the character of the people they have elected; see them for who they really are by shedding some light on their attitude and and actions.  We cannot build a safe and equitable community for all when our leadership is more interested in their own self-promotion, hateful ideology and hiding the truth.

I am meeting more and more people every day here in Sarnia who do not feel safe, who have been harassed and harmed, who do not experience their leaders looking out for them and who feel the need to leave as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  And while I encourage them to do whatever they need to do to protect themselves and be in a place where they can flourish, while I am here, I think it is critical to challenge the toxic systems that are in place and attempt to work towards facing the inherent racism within ourselves and the way our city operates.

So, to all of you who have been on the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour and come up against the systemic barriers from Sarnia, I stand with you, I love you and I will continue to shine a light on the dark corners of our city wherever I can.  Peace and love to you all.

21 thoughts on “Diversity Training In Sarnia Full Story”

  1. Electing Bill Dennis to council was a huge mistake. Hopefully, not one that will be made in the next election.
    If an elected official is not able to control his behaviour and discourse in a respectful manner with all persons, then it is time to say “Bye-Bye” to them.

  2. Thank you Nathan for the explanation and having the integrity to share it. It is disheartening to learn of the abusive, disrespectful, racist behaviour from some Councillors who are part of what quickly became a dysfunctional Council after it was elected. That they have no respect for others in meetings implies they have no respect for all of the people of Sarnia who they were elected to serve but instead are solely driven by self-interest. We deserve better!

  3. This is awful and I am horrified that it occurred. Thank you for bringing it forward to make people aware. I noticed in a previous online post that it was mentioned there were two troublesome councillors, with BD being the bigger offender. Regardless of one being worse than the other, I think we deserve to know who the other one was so we can avoid re-electing them to represent the people of our city. Will the other name come out? Also, do you have suggestions for how the public can intervene and fight for change in the council as a result of things like this?

  4. It is sad that this has been going on for years with different players being the perpetrators. Unfortunately, people don’t see a common denominator — the leader of the ship has been constant throughout and continues to be, at the least, complicit in the matter. He is the master of spin, and will find a way to distance himself and manipulate the electorate into believing that he has no role in anything that does not make him look good. The captain of the ship sets the direction, and is accountable for the outcome, …..except in Sarnia.

  5. Nathan, thank you for your straightforward explanation of what occurred in the Diversity Training meeting. We definitely need to know how our councillors, who are supposed to represent us, respond to, and think about diversity. I am disheartened by the fact that our mayor allowed this to go on without interruption or sanction. I feel sad that Sarnia is painted with a black mark yet again, because of the substandard behaviour of a few bad apples. I hope the people of Sarnia take all of this this into account at the next municipal election.

  6. The public deserves to know what occurred. Public funds probably paid for the training. We should know how the councillors reacted and behave as they represent us.

  7. Thanks Nathan. This is just so worrisome on so many levels. I’m not going to comment further other than to say thank you for getting the truth out.

  8. I’ve attended a number of presentations by Kike. She is professional, passionate and very knowledgeable. Diversity work requires you to examine your own biases, reflect on your own history and behaviour as well as learning about the experiences of others, many without a voice at the table. It’s uncomfortable for most, but that helps to bring change. I was disappointed to hear the response and behaviour of some of Sarnia’s elected officials. When you think you know it all and don’t need to adjust your views, change doesn’t happen. Besides, it was rude to a professional hired to deliver training. I don’t blame her for cancelling future sessions.

  9. 2nd racist city in Canada? Certainly seems on par. I unfollowed Bill Dennis’ racist, right wing, conspiracy theorist page a long time ago. It’s actually sickening to me that he has a voice in this city. How do we change things in such a conservative town? Many people that live here have the same thoughts and sentiments as our racist and rude city councillors.

  10. Thank you for keeping the citizens informed, and your persistent effort with encouraging transparency between the city leadership and its citizens.

  11. Viktor Yanukovych

    Nathan you’re so brave, I’m glad you wrote these details of the closed door meeting down in full detail. The people need to know what goes on in these closed door meetings. I hope you continue to us about all the details and expose what happens. I look forward to more of our chats about what happens they are very informative!!

  12. Well, Citizens of Sarnia get what they vote for and probably deserve what they have. Bradley was found guilty of ‘Verbal, Psychological and Supervisory Abuse, Relational Aggression and Character Assassination’ just a few years ago and was sanctioned twice and re-elected. It’s almost laughable to think it would change, if it weren’t so contemptible. By cherishing and retaining its bigoted values Sarnia remains comfortable for all its bigots.

  13. Nathan, I wonder if you still consider Kike Ojo-Thompson “brilliant” in light of the situation in Toronto in 2021.
    I’m referring to the Toronto District School Board training session in which a principal was denounced as a “white supremacist” for disagreeing with her assertion that Canada is more racist than the United States.
    He suffered professional repercussions (nobody stepped in to stop him, and he lost his contract job), and more recently committed suicide. Unlike the Sarnia session, this one was recorded so there cannot be a “he said, she said” situation. Oh, and the WSIB allowed his claim, citing her conduct at the session in allowing his mental health claim.

    1. Hey Bruce, yes I’ve been following along this story. It is a tragedy that he killed himself, and also a tragedy that the media tied his suicide to a zoom call that he had two years earlier as if they had anything to do with one another.

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