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)

Anti-SOGI B.C. school trustee’s lawsuit against BCTF president could be in court soon

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

A controversial 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.

Barry 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 April 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.”


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cat owners are being warned to keep their pets indoors after a threatening note was found posted in a North Saanich neighbourhood. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
ROAM warns Peninsula cat owners after threatening note posted in neighbourhood

Note writer doesn’t want cats pooping in their yard, threatens to trap them

West Shore RCMP are investigating a crash on Sooke Road. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wilde)
Langford emergency crews on scene at Sooke Road crash

Almost 3,000 BC Hydro customers without power

Coun. Tara Ney rakes leaves behind Oak Bay municipal hall. Ney’s motion asking staff to do a report on alternative options to the ongoing use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Oak Bay. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay a step closer to banning gas leaf blowers

Council leans toward a study on alternatives

Victoria police are warning the public of fraudsters impersonating Service Canada and VicPD in an attempt to have victims transfer money to bitcoins. (Unsplash photo)
Police issue warning after Victoria man scammed out of $6,000

Victim received calls from people impersonating Service Canada, VicPD

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Most Read