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).

Controversial Chilliwack trustee wins appeal for freedom of expression in defamation case

Barry Neufeld’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 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 Shuswap River in Enderby draws in people from near and far in the summer months of each year. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
RDNO ends lengthy attempt to bring new boating regulations to Shuswap River

With no consensus among stakeholders or remaining funds, the regional district is moving on

The final phase of Vernon’s north-south travel corridor on 29th and 30th Streets will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, June 18, 2021. (Shawn Talbot Photography)
Vernon’s 39th Avenue rail crossing closed tomorrow for warning system upgrades

The final phase of the city’s double roundabout intersection is starting months earlier than expected

sdaf
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

Fanny Chapman doesn’t just serve up Mexican flavours at the Kal Lake Food concession at Kal Beach, she also teaches Spanish. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernonites asked to share funniest Spanish translation stories

Mexicans living in town holding a contest to offer free Spanish classes

(City of Enderby photo)
Enderby council honours local volunteer ‘cornerstone’

Melvin Slater receives the Lifetime Civic Merit Award for his decades of work with service organizations

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Smoke has been showing since earlier in the day

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read