The legal battle between a Chilliwack school trustee and the former president of the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) is not yet over.
Trustee Barry Neufeld has filed an appeal to what he characterizes as an “unjust ruling” by the BC Supreme Court. A judge sided with former president of the BCTF, Glen Hansman, in the application of a new bill known colloquially as the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law.
Neufeld announced the appeal in a Facebook post, in response to a story by The Progress that summarized all of the legal proceedings from 2019 for the trustee. As it turns out, there has been a recent update to those proceedings.
“You missed the most important event of my year: With the encouragement of some friends, on Dec 17, I filed an appeal against the unjust ruling of the BC Supreme Court,” he wrote, addressing this reporter.
In the post, Neufeld further explains the history of the case.
“Over a year ago, I had laid a defamation suit against Glen Hansman, president of the BC Teachers Federation (union) due to all the nasty, insulting remarks he made on various media outlets,” Neufeld wrote. “The plan was to have a jury trial in Chilliwack Supreme Court on Dec. 2 of this year. Then in the spring of this year, using a brand-new B.C. law for the first time, Mr. Hansman applied to quash my defamation suit under the new Bill 32: Protection of Public Participation Act. Popularly known as anti-SLAPP law.”
Neufeld rightfully explains that this law was put into effect in March 2019. As such, it has been tested in the B.C. court system very few times.
Neufeld believes the judge applied the law incorrectly in this case, hence the appeal.
“It was intended to protect ‘little guys’ from legal harassment by large corporations and organizations that had lots of money for legal battles. The only precedents were from Ontario, where this kind of law has been in effect for four years.
He wrote that Hansman “turned the Act on its head, and argued that while what he said was defamatory, he had a right and privilege to call me names, because it was in ‘the public interest.’”
Neufeld contends that all he had asked for was more discussion regarding the Ministry of Education approved program known as SOGI 123.
“But instead of an enlightening public debate, all he would do was hurl insults. I do not see how that is in the public interest!” Neufeld wrote.
The debate Neufeld started was back in the fall of 2017. His comments, again on his Facebook page but set to ‘public’ privacy settings, spoke harshly against the program.
He wrote at that time: “At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values and I agree with the [American College of Pediatricians] that allowing little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse.”
The judge in the anti-SLAPP lawsuit referred directly that very quote, saying that when Neufeld decided to make his statement, he acknowledged the risk of name-calling he would endure.
Neufeld stated on Dec. 30, 2019 that he believes the judge “has made several errors at law.”
He then quotes his lawyer, Paul Jaffe.
“There’s a big access to justice issue here, plus of course freedom of speech which doesn’t really exist if the consequences of public comment can include open season of malicious vilification by left wing activists,” Neufeld quotes Jaffe as saying. “The ‘balance of interests’ test towards the end of the judgment is deeply disturbing as, aside from the false dichotomy raised by the judge (this is NOT a contest between the right to debate SOGI and Neufeld’s damages), this test empowers a judge to stop an action because, for example, he believes that Hansman’s right to defame Neufeld trumps Neufeld’s right to a trial.”
His most recent post also reiterates his disagreement with what he calls “gender fluid ideology,” while standing up for his commitment to education.
“I have worked hard to build up a reputation as a compassionate and caring person concerned about access to education for all students and protecting parental rights,” he wrote.
“But I could not in good conscience go along with this new gender fluid ideology which defies common sense, biological science and even TRUTH! My choice was to speak up or resign. I could not live with myself if I resigned. And if I back down now, the radicals have won, my reputation has been terribly damaged and my life’s work would be for naught!”
Watch this website for updates on this appeal.
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