Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld at the Oct. 2 board meeting. Neufeld filed a lawsuit Oct. 12 for defamation against BCTF president Glen Hansman. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

Anti-SOGI Chilliwack school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld has filed a civil lawsuit for defamation against B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman.

Neufeld has been the subject of considerable pressure and media attention for nearly a year since he came out strongly against the Ministry of Education’s LGBTQ anti-bullying teaching resource known as SOGI 123.

• READ MORE: Former Chilliwack student creates online petition

BCTF President Glen Hansman

Hansman has been one of Neufeld’s strongest critics over the SOGI 123 controversy and has been quoted in various media outlets as critical of Neufeld’s behaviour, calling it discriminatory, hateful, transphobic, and that Neufeld “shouldn’t be anywhere near students.”

As part of the statement of facts in the notice of civil claim filed in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Oct. 12, Neufeld’s lawyer Paul Jaffe states that “the plaintiff believes that SOGI effectively seeks to displace the role of parents.”

He writes that “the militant nature of some activists and fear of hostile backlash had a chilling effect on meaningful debate about SOGI on school boards across B.C.”

The civil claim then goes on to cite numerous news articles from websites, newspapers, radio and TV that quote Hansman but also others, including Education Minister Rob Fleming, who are critical of Neufeld’s remarks about SOGI 123.

• READ MORE: Education minister blasts Chilliwack school trustee on gender issues

As part of the statement of facts, Neufeld’s original Facebook post from Oct. 23, 2017 is included, in which he harshly criticizes the teaching resource, which was instituted by the previous BC Liberal government. Neufeld calls its basis a “biologically absurd theory” and he claims that students “are being taught that heterosexual marriages is [sic] no longer the norm.”

“If this represents the values of Canadian society, count me out,” he wrote. “I belong in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”

• READ MORE: Chilliwack trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

Soon after that, Neufeld spoke at anti-SOGI rally held at Evergreen Hall hosted by the far-right wing Culture Guard group.

Subsequently Neufeld was asked to resign by fellow school board members but he refused. Instead, he stepped away from his duties and he was asked not to attend to any schools in Chilliwack.

As part of the civil claim, Neufeld says the criticism by Hansman in the media warrants damages because he “suffered indignity, personal harassment, stress, anxiety along with mental and emotional distress.”

Some humiliation and isolation Neufeld said he has suffered includes that direction by the board to stay away from public schools because of safety concerns of LGBTQ students. A BC School Trustee Association meeting in February 2018 had to be cancelled because Neufeld refused to not attend, despite the Maple Ridge school board saying his attendance would violate the “Safe, Caring, and Healthy Schools” policy.

And in June 2018, Neufeld was to deliver congratulatory speeches to the four high school commencement events, but he was directed by the school board that he was prohibited from being on stage with the other trustees “and prohibited from shaking the hands of the graduating students, all because his presence allegedly made it unsafe to LGBTQ students.”

The BCTF has also filed a complaint over Neufeld with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, a hearing for which is supposed to take place before the end of the year, according to Hansman.

The civil claim calls Hansman’s comments about Neufeld “false and defamatory” and those statement, Neufeld argues, as understood by the public meant that he, among a list of 17 claims: promoted hatred; committed hate speech; and was discriminatory against gay and/or transgender students.

As for Hansman, when asked about the civil suit on Friday, he told The Progress he stands by his statements.

”His other misogynist and problematic statements reported by Press Progress are also cause for alarm and not becoming of a school trustee,” Hansman said.

Press Progress is a left-wing online media outlet launched by the Broadbent Institute in 2013 that defines itself as “Canada’s most shared source for progressive news and information.” On Oct. 16, the website posted a story about Neufeld with the headling: “This Man is Probably The Worst School Trustee in British Columbia,” in which it included Neufeld’s past posts about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and his belief that Adolf Hitler had an IQ as high as 160.

Neufeld’s lawyer for the civil case, Paul Jaffe, also created a GoFundMe campaign three months before the civil suit was filed on July 19, 2018 entitled “Barry Neufeld Legal Fund.” The GoFundMe page had raised $26,515 of its $50,000 goal by Oct. 19.

Most donations are from anonymous donors, but among local funders are local developers Ron Sturm who gave $200 and Bill Kerkhoff gave $2,500. Chilliwack company Visscher Holdings gave $5,000, and there are multiple donations from Neufeld himself.

In an email sent to The Progress, Neufeld said it was his intention to ask for a jury trial “so that the citizens of Chilliwack can fully participate in this important issue of Free Speech.”

While unusual, six-member jury trials can be requested by either the plaintiff or the defendant in civil matters.

None of the claims made in the civil suit has been proven in court.

Neufeld is on the ballot running for re-election in the Oct. 20 municipal election.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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About 350 people showed up for a rally outside the Chilliwack School Board office on Tuesday night, to show their support for LGBTQ students, teachers, staff and parents. Meanwhile, inside the board office, Trustee Barry Neufeld was announcing he is stepping back from some of this duties, but not all of them. (Greg Laychak/ The Progress)

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