The BC Court of Appeal in Vancouver.

The BC Court of Appeal in Vancouver.

BC Court of Appeal hearing Barry Neufeld’s arguments why defamation suit should go ahead

BC Supreme Court tossed out lawsuit against Glen Hansman a year ago following anti-SLAPP legislation

The highest court in B.C. heard from Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld’s lawyer Wednesday morning in the first day of the appeal of his defamation lawsuit against former British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman being dismissed in BC Supreme Court.

Jaffe’s main argument to the three-judge BC Court of Appeal is that the trial judge did not properly address the alleged defamation while coming to the conclusion, and that the media coverage that included Hansman’s alleged defamation was not properly examined by the judge.

It was just prior to the Oct. 20, 2018 municipal election when Neufeld filed the defamation lawsuit against Hansman who was BCTF president at the time.

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.”

Jaffe claimed 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.”

But on Nov. 26, 2019, Justice A. Ross dismissed the lawsuit in the first ever use of the province’s then brand new “anti-SLAPP” legislation. The Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA) protects people from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP).

READ MORE: Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

READ MORE: Chilliwack ‘fair comment’ case dismissed by judge

Ross found that in balancing the interests of Hansman’s free expression and Neufeld’s harm suffered “I find the interest in public debate outweighs the interest in continuing the proceeding on those facts.”

Neufeld filed an appeal of that decision, and the first of a two-day hearing began Wednesday (Nov. 25, 2020).

In part, his lawyer Jaffe argued that BC Supreme Court Justice “has turned the SLAPP act on its head. He’s preventing Neufeld from having a day in court for a libel claim for the benefit of a party [Hansman] that has used libel to shut down debate.”

Jaffe argued that any claim of hatred or bigotry or transphobia is actually absent from Neufeld’s comments criticizing SOGI-123. The three Justices hearing the case occasionally had to interupt Jaffe to clarify his direction and to ensure he was not attempting to bring the original case forward yet again, and instead was focused on addressing where the trial judge supposedly erred in his decision.

Jaffe suggested that Justice Ross did not properly address the defamation alleged by Hansman’s comments in a series of news stories, instead too quickly reverting to a claim of “fair comment.”

Jaffe further argued in pointing to a Chilliwack Progress article on Oct. 19, 2018, that Hansman was commenting on Neufeld – “doubling down” – even though the lawsuit was filed a week prior.

Justice Willcock suggested to Jaffe that he might not want to make such a submission lest it undercut his own argument if he was implying that the lawsuit should have kept Hansman from commenting publicly.

“The whole point of the SLAPP legislation is to stop defamation suits from stopping people from engaging in public policy discussions and this argument cuts both ways,” Willcock said.

Jaffe wrapped up his submissions mid-afternoon on Wednesday (Nov. 25), followed by Hansman’s lawyer Robyn Trask who got started.

She began by suggesting the case was a textbook SLAPP case, there was a strong fair comment defence, and there is no harm flowing from the comments.

While Jaffe focused on the now infamous October 2017 Facebook post by Neufeld that started all the criticism against him, and he focused on Hansman’s comments, Trask pointed to numerous other comments Neufeld had made over the months and numerous news articles that do not include criticism from Hansman.

She said Hansman’s responses were “clearly fair comment” of an individual in the public realm who made several inflammatory public social media posts.

Earlier in the day, Jaffe anticipated the argument that Hansman’s criticism were one among many, by saying: “There is no refuge in a mob for a defendant in a libel case.”

Trask will continue Thursday (Nov. 26) and the hearing is scheduled to wrap up that day.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This woman is one of two people the Agassiz RCMP are asking for assistance in identifying after a string of alleged thefts in Popkum. (Agassiz RCMP)
Agassiz RCMP ask for help to identify suspects in Popkum thefts

Images of the two suspects were captured on surveillance footage between Jan. 10 and 16

Empty Royal Hotel windows are seen on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 along Main Street in downtown Chilliwack. They will soon be home to an upcoming project called Art on Main. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Local talent sought for ‘Art on Main’ display in downtown Chilliwack

Art on Main a way for local artists to display work in windows of Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel

The Chilliwack Local Health Area saw 119 COVID-19 cases in the week of Jan. 10 to Jan. 16, 2021. (BCCDC)
Weekly Chilliwack COVID case numbers on the decline

BCCDC reports show 119 cases last week down from 140 the week before that

Abbotsford’s Tradex has been transformed into a volleyball and basketball facility with Open Court. (Instagram photo)
Abbotsford’s Tradex transforms into sports facility

Open Court program hosting volleyball and basketball teams for practices and possibly games

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Most Read