Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

CUPE and Chilliwack School Board settle human rights complaint, Neufeld cases still ongoing

Complaint stems from anti-LGBTQ comments made by trustee Barry Neufeld

The Chilliwack School Board has settled a human rights complaint with one of its employee unions.

CUPE 411, which represents Chilliwack school support workers, custodians, transportation staff and others filed a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal in January 2018.

The complaint was against both school trustee Barry Neufeld and the Chilliwack School Board, following a series of public comments by Neufeld. He had shared his beliefs about transgender policies, gender theories, and family values, in light of the province adopting new teaching resources to address sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

His attitudes, expressed online, in board meetings and in spoken public forums, created “an unsafe work environment for CUPE members and other Board employees” the HRT complaint stated. The complaint asked for a declatory order that the board has breached the Human Rights Code, and that all trustees and senior management take part in training on LGBTQ equality rights, and on protecting LGBTQ students in schools.

On Nov. 3, new chair of the board, Willow Reichelt, read out a joint public statement (see below) announcing that their portion of the complaint had been settled and there would be no further action. It lists steps the board has taken, including painting a rainbow in the parking lot of the district office.

While the board has settled with CUPE 411, Neufeld personally has not.

CUPE’s complaint did also ask that a fee of $50,000 in compensation for “injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect” be paid on behalf of affected employee to a non-profit group that advocates for LGBTQ youth. The board’s recent statement did not mention such a payment, and the issue would have been settled in an in-camera meeting as it dealt with legal issues.

However, Neufeld has publicly mentioned a payment that could be connected. In a Facebook post he said the board has given a “pay out of thousands of dollars to a gay advocacy group … that would come back to haunt us!”

Shortly after posting that on Facebook, Neufeld edited out the word “gay.”

There is also a human rights complaint against Neufeld, but not the school board, by the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association. There has been no public update made recently about that complaint.

READ MORE: Union files human rights complaint over Chilliwack school trustee’s LGBTQ comments

Joint public statement respecting the settlement between the Board of Education (Chilliwack) and CUPE Local 411

“Both the Chilliwack Board of Education, School District #33 (the “Board”) and CUPE Local 411 (the Union) believe that schools and workplaces must be safe and welcoming for all, students and staff alike, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background. The Board and the Union do not condone any conduct that is racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic, or that discriminates on any other human right ground.

The Board has taken initiatives to improve the safe learning and working environment for LGBTQ individuals, including painting a rainbow crosswalk in the School District #33 parking lot, censuring discriminatory commentary from a trustee, and committing to provide education workshops for trustees on gender identity, sexual orientation, human rights and antidiscrimination. The Union recognizes these initiatives by the Board and is committed to working with the Board going forward to ensure everyone feels included and respected in a safe learning and working environment while being fully and completely themselves.

The Board and the Union are pleased that, following good faith discussions between them, they have come to a mutually satisfactory resolution of a human rights complaint against the Board by the Union, arising from one trustee’s personal comments, and that that complaint against the Board will not be proceeding further.”

READ MORE: Neufeld will run again on ‘gender positive’ platform


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jpeters@theprogress.com

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Chilliwack School District