The founders and former directors of a Fraser Valley charity focused on helping families affected by autism were shocked when they learned Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld was raising money online for their society.
That’s because the Fraser Valley Autism Society (FVAS) shut its doors more than a year ago.
“Barry Neufeld, Chilliwack School Trustee, is not raising funds on our behalf,” FVAS founders and former directors Dan and Virginia Renaud said in a statement issued.
“Anyone claiming to be raising funds on behalf of the Fraser Valley Autism Society would be doing so without prior authorization. The donation page was started without any correspondence between Mr. Neufeld and any previous Board Member of the FVAS.”
Neufeld has garnered considerable media attention for his controversial stance against the LGBTQ anti-bullying resource used across the province called SOGI 123. His position has led to backlashes from parents, schools, it has forced him to back away from duties in the previous term of the board, and even led the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board to decline hosting a B.C. School Trustee Association because Neufeld insisted on attending.
Neufeld has been rebuked for his views by the last Chilliwack school board chair, the teachers’ union, and even Minister of Education Rob Fleming.
And a long Facebook post on Nov. 20 expressed his opposition to SOGI 123 on a new front, namely, that “a large proportion of kids who present as gender dysphoric are actually on the autism spectrum.”
“It is disturbed and mentally ill children -obsessive/compulsive, sexual abuse survivors and post-traumatic Stress syndrome kids, as well as autistic, that I am worried about,” Neufeld wrote. “If they learn about this new non-binary gender ideology, I fear there will be a dramatic increase of children clamoring for social transition, puberty blockers and a lifetime of taking hormones.”
Also included on his Facebook page was a link to “Barry’s birthday” fundraiser.
“For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to FRASER VALLEY AUTISM SOCIETY. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal.”
By Friday, his “fundraiser” had raised $250, yet the Renauds told The Progress that “there are no active fundraising campaigns and all bank accounts are closed.”
Asked about the link between autism and gender dysphoria, the Renauds said they wanted to stay away from the SOGI 123 controversy and Neufeld’s remarks. Another former board member said she had never heard anyone link autism and gender dysphoria, and she called the notion “ridiculous.”
The Renauds said they wanted to ensure the good work done by the FVAS over the years was not smeared by Neufeld’s online statements.
“The FVAS had a long history of providing much-needed support for families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was always done using accurate, scientifically sourced information, respecting all individuals. We do not wish to be associated, either as the FVAS or separately, with Mr. Neufeld’s statements regarding autism.”
Asked about the Facebook post, Neufeld said he didn’t know FVAS was no longer in operation.
“Facebook gave a list of charities to donate to,” he told The Progress via email. “I was not aware that the FVAS had been shut down. I guess FB wasn’t aware either. Now I am trying to get FB to redirect the funds or issue refunds.”