Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).

Neufeld wins appeal for freedom of expression in defamation case

Controversial trustee’s lawsuit against former BCTF president Glen Hansman will now continue

Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld has won his appeal against a court decision dismissing his defamation lawsuit against former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman.

In a written decision posted Wednesday morning, the Court of Appeal for B.C. found that the judge who dismissed Neufeld’s claim under the Protection of Public Participation Act erred in assessing whether there was likely a valid defence of fair comment.

The three justices relied in part on a 2013 academic law paper that pointed out how fragile freedom is because those who seek its protection are often those who are least sympathetic, those whose views are “offensive, confrontational, and even abusive.”

“[T]ransgressions that are merely offensive must be tolerated and addressed by other means,” Prof. Jamie Cameron wrote as quoted by the appeals court decision.

“Defamatory comments that accuse someone of committing hate speech can inflict serious reputational harm,” Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon wrote in the decision. “The judge’s error was in failing to consider the collateral effect that preventing Mr. Neufeld from defending himself from such serious accusations could have on other individual’s willingness to express themselves on issues of public interest in future.”

In 2018, Neufeld filed a civil lawsuit against Hansman for comments the former BCTF president made about the trustee in 2017 in the debate about anti-bullying gender identity materials used in schools in B.C., SOGI-123.

Neufeld has been vocal in his staunch opposition to SOGI, criticism that has been labelled anti-LGBTQ and homophobic by many people, Hansman included.

BC Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross tossed out the defamation suit in 2019 following anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation, also saying it had no reasonable prospect of success, and calling Neufeld’s submissions “skeletal at best.”

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

READ MORE: BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

This was the first time the anti-SLAPP legislation has been used in court.

Neufeld’s affidavit in that court hearing was just three paragraphs long. The second paragraph said: “That, the public portrayal of me as a hateful, intolerant, homophobic, religious bigot and a threat to the safety of children commenced with the defendant’s statement on October 24, 2017 as I have pleaded herein.”

Neufeld then appealed the dismissal, that hearing was held Nov. 25 and 26, 2020.

Hansman’s lawyer Robyn Trask relied on the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case involving radio broadcaster Rafe Mair. In the 2008 decision, WIC Radio Ltd. v Simpson, the case addressed Mair’s on-air comments about Kari Simpson, a socially conservative activist with Culture Guard. Mair said Simpson was encouraging violence, and he compared her to Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads.

In 2006, the BC Court of Appeal found that Mair did defame Simpson and that fair comment could not be relied upon. The Supreme Court similarly agreed about the defamation, but allowed Mair’s appeal, essentially rewriting the law, stating that the old test for defamation could no longer be used.

“With respect to fair comment, we say Mr. Hansman’s comments were a reasonable and proportionate response [to Neufeld’s comments about the LGBTQ community],” Trask said.

Neufeld’s lawyer argued that tossing out the lawsuit prevented “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.”

That hearing was held Nov. 26, 2020, with the decision reserved until Wednesday (June 8, 2021).


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.

Chilliwack School District

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

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

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read