I am proud to be from Chilliwack. I initially moved here in 2002 from North Vancouver. The decision was made due to the laid back lifestyle, opportunities for recreation, and affordable living that Chilliwack offers.
What is the first thing a friend or acquaintance says from another community when I say I’m from Chilliwack? It used to be “I’ve only driven past Chilliwack on Highway 1. It definitely smells like a booming agricultural industry.”
It is now more common to hear some sort of variation of “isn’t your community a bit behind the times?” This comment generally is presented in the context of anti-progressive rhetoric. Recently, this anti-progressive rhetoric has surrounded issues such as changing select crosswalks from white to rainbow in support of LGBTQ+, and certain comments made by school trustee Barry Neufeld that clearly establish his stance when it comes to inclusivity and respect for individuals on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. The following is a brief summary of the opinions that have been expressed by Barry Neufeld:
1. The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) program is a weapon of propaganda;
2. Educating children on sexual orientation and gender, and allowing children to change gender is child abuse;
3. In the future, the government will start apprehending children and place them in homes to explore homosexuality;
4. The World Health Organization is a corrupt entity;
5. Gender is binary;
6. Abortion should not be legal; and
7. LGBTQ+ individuals deceive people and cannot hold meaningful positions in society.
This is only a brief, incomplete summary of the statements made by Barry Neufeld throughout his tenure as a school trustee.
Following a brief overview of the School Act, RSBC 1996, it is clear that the actions of Neufeld conflict with the purpose of the Act.
The act states that “the purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their potential to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”
Do Barry Neufeld’s draconian views on sexual orientation and gender contribute to furthering the purpose of the School Act? Definitely not. Do his comments that he has made in his capacity as a school trustee contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society? Definitely not. Are his comments conducive to all students becoming literate, personally fulfilled and publicly useful, increasing the strength and contributions to the health and stability of society? Definitely not.
While I recognize that in a personal capacity Barry Neufeld and others are free to express views on sexual orientation and gender, it is not OK as a school trustee.
I’m hopeful that as we progress as a society, draconian views on sexual orientation and gender begin to dissipate, and we can all respect each other. If we allow individuals such as Barry Neufeld to continue to discriminate against individuals on the LGBTQ+ spectrum we will not move forward and grow. If we allow this to continue we are letting down the individuals in our community that are most affected by the hateful comments that have been made. This cannot continue.