The Fraser Valley Labour Council has withdrawn its support for Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and has called for his resignation.
The labour group says Neufeld’s comments on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program (SOGI) deny students and staff a safe learning environment, and put the school district at risk of breaching the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Comments like these have the potential effect of denying students a learning opportunity to ensure success,” said FVLC president Danielle Pohl. (Read entire letter below)
If Neufeld does not step down voluntarily, the FVLC said, he should be removed.
The labour council’s comments come in the wake of a statement Neufeld posted in October on Facebook, calling the SOGI program a “weapon of propaganda,” driven by “radical cultural nihilists.”
Said Neufeld: “I can no longer sit on my hands. I have to stand up and be counted.”
His comments, while drawing some support, were widely condemned. Both the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation called for his resignation. Education minister Rob Fleming stopped just short, saying he hoped Neufeld would eventually change his position. The Chilliwack school board issued a statement citing its support for inclusiveness.
Neufeld did issue an apology to anyone offended by his comments.
But that apology did not go far enough, said Pohl.
“The apology issued does not address accountability, responsibility, the seriousness of harm caused or the reparation of that harm. I urge the chair and entire board to take steps to repair the harm that has been caused.”
Pohl said SOGI equips teachers and school districts “with the necessary awareness and education to create safe and inclusive environments and protect themselves and school districts from discriminatory practices and human rights code violations.”
The SOGI program was on the agenda at the Nov. 7 school board meeting, where trustees were given an overview of its intent and plans for its implementation. Neufeld was absent from the meeting, but trustee Heather Maahs spoke out against SOGI. She called on the Minister of Education to reconsider the implementation of SOGI, saying she is concerned about parental authority and teachers “undermining parents in regards of when and what is being taught.”
“This is all so woven in,” she said. “The lines are very fuzzy when we’re talking about sex and sex ed…. the SOGI program is clearly an overstep.”
Trustees Walt Krahn, Bob Patterson and Paul McManus spoke in favour of creating safe spaces for all students.
“We are here for all students, and all students means just that, all students,” Krahn said.
Patterson said to meet their goal of providing academic achievement, students need to be comfortable about who they are, while McManus said it’s ultimately up to parents to to be initiating conversations with their own children’s teachers and administrators.
Read the entire letter from the FVLC here: