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)

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

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two South Okanagan businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

Most Read