Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld speaking against the B.C. education ministry’s SOGI program at a rally called by Culture Guard in Chilliwack. (Progress file)

Neufeld could be in Chilliwack courtroom by July

Trustee who spoke out against LGBTQ resources to defend defamation case against BCTF president

Before he can defend his name, Barry Neufeld will have to defend his actual defamation case. The Chilliwack school trustee could be in Supreme Court as soon as July, in order to defend his civil defamation suit in front of a judge.

Neufeld launched the suit against Glen Hansman, the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) last fall, following several interviews quoting Hansman’s displeasure with Neufeld.

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

But earlier this month, Hansman applied to have the court case dismissed under a new anti-SLAPP law, requesting dates of July 11 and 12. That hearing will take place in Chilliwack, and will put the onus on Neufeld to show the case has merit. SLAPP stands for ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’ and the legislation, which was just passed in March, is meant to help judges stop legal proceedings against people who are criticizing or speaking out against matters of public interest.

Hansman called for Neufeld’s resignation and called him transphobic in the wake of the school trustee’s own criticism of ministry-approved teaching resource called SOGI 123. Hansman said Neufeld “shouldn’t be anywhere near students.”

Neufeld claims that Hansman’s comment, and those that surfaced online and in the media caused him to suffer “indignity, personal harassment, stress, anxiety along with mental and emotional distress.”

But in the end, it didn’t cost him the election.

Neufeld handily won his long-held seat on the Chilliwack School Board last fall, and mentions this fact often at the board table. Neufeld was at the centre of the SOGI 123 debate, after posting a long statement on Facebook against the resource. SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity, and SOGI 123 is a ministry-approved resource teachers can use to discuss gender identity and roles in the classroom.

For the July 11 and 12 hearing, Neufeld will have to defend why he believes the defamation suit should move forward.

This will reportedly be the first time in B.C. that a plaintiff has had to defend their defamation suit. Neufeld’s lawyer, Paul Jaffe, told The Progress via e-mail on May 23 that “we are about to be filing a 10-page response to Mr. Hansman’s recent application on the anti-slap act (sic).”

The court file between the two men is several inches thick, and includes newspaper articles, screenshots from Facebook posts and links to television coverage. The most recent document is a “notice of intention to act in person” by Neufeld, in place of his lawyer Paul Jaffe, filed on May 9.

The Attorney General’s office says a “key feature is an expedited process by which a defendant may apply to the court to dismiss a lawsuit on the basis that it impinges on the defendant’s ability to speak freely on a matter of public interest. If the court so determined, it would dismiss the lawsuit, unless the plaintiff could satisfy the court that the harm the plaintiff likely would suffer as a result of that free speech would outweigh the public interest in protecting it.”

“Lawsuits that serve to silence and financially exhaust those exercising their right of expression exploit our legal system and only serve those with significantly deeper pockets,” said David Eby, Attorney General, when the legislation passed in March. “We’re committed to ensuring a robust, healthy democracy that defends British Columbians’ fundamental rights – in part, by helping people who want and deserve the freedom to peacefully engage in public debate without fear of unreasonable and financially ruinous legal action against them.”

Neufeld is also facing two Human Rights Tribunal hearings related to SOGI 123, although the dates for those have not yet been confirmed by the tribunal. A 90-day calendar is updated sporadically and dates listed until late August do not mention either hearing.

The BCTF filed a complaint against Neufeld, as did local CUPE members.

CUPE 411 filed theirs in January 2018 and included the school board and the school district in their complaint, “for the public comments that Trustee Neufeld has made about Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation and the effects on our LGBTQ+ members and members who are parents of LGBTQ+ students…When one of us is harmed, we are all harmed and CUPE 411 stands strong with our LGBTQ+ members and members who are parents of LGBTQ+ children.”

The BCTF complaint, filed last January but not made public until last April, says that while Barry Neufeld claims he does not “hate” transgender children, “his statements subject transgender people to hatred.”

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when CUPE 411 filed their complaint. The error is now corrected.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Time to specify where Chilliwack spending priorities should be

It’s that time of year again when City of Chilliwack engages its citizens to weigh in on budgeting

Council votes to give Chilliwack homeless shelter an 18-month extension

There were more than 40 passionate speakers at city hall who had their say for more than four hours

Chilliwack woman finds mysterious coin among Grandma’s collection

Grandmother died when she was very young and her past is not well known to her mother

VIDEO: Chilliwack musician is embracing the revival of the accordion

Accordionist Debra Kartz has seen the instrument become popular again and wants to inspire the next generation

Fantasy Farms told to stop holding special events on farmland that go against agricultural rules

The Morans say it might spell the end of their seasonal events like Reapers Haunted Attractions

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

Man who orchestrated Mission murders gets day parole after serving less than three years

Victims’ parents express grief, outrage over parole board decision

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Most Read