Barry Neufeld was among the crowd at a Culture Guard rally in November in Chilliwack, held in support of him and his comments on Facebook against SOGI 123 and gender fluidity. Since then, the Minister of Education, Chilliwack School Board, and many others have asked for his resignation, but he also has supporters. (Jessica Peters/ Progress file)

Justice group, fellow trustee, defending B.C. school trustee

Chilliwack school trustee facing increasing pressure to resign over LGBTQ beliefs

A group that fights for constitutional freedoms across Canada has announced it is representing Chilliwack Trustee Barry Neufeld as he defends himself against a complaint through the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) sent out a press release on Monday morning, listing the details of the case that date back to October 2017, when Neufeld first started publicly criticizing a teacher resource called SOGI 123. The Chilliwack School Board is also listed in the human rights complaint, but not listed in JCCF’s press release.

John Carpay, president of JCCF said Neufeld retained the centre to represent him. The complaint was filed by CUPE Local 411, the support staff union of the school district.

JCCF’s release says “CUPE 411 claims that the School District has violated section 13(1)(b) of the BC Human Rights Code by not ‘censuring’ or removing Mr. Neufeld as a trustee. CUPE 411 further claims that the School District violated section 13(1)(b) of the Code by failing to take any action against Mr. Neufeld, and that Mr. Neufeld’s statements have created an ‘unsafe’ and ‘discriminatory’ working environment for employees.”

It also says “Mr. Neufeld has publicly criticized the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) curriculum supplements that B.C. teachers are encouraged to use. SOGI 123 materials promote, among other things, the belief that gender is fluid, that there are more than two genders, and that gender is not determined by biological sex.”

SOGI 123 was created in partnership with UBC and the ARC Foundation, and has been approved by the Ministry of Education and has approval by both the current NDP and past Liberal government. Its inception follows an amendment to the BC Human Rights Code to include protection for both gender expression and identity. It is a resource tool, open to anyone with an internet connection, that teachers are free to use to access age-appropriate lesson plans, learn proper terminology (and which terms are offensive), and how to find more information on LGBTQ issues for students.

However, JCCF says the “materials propagate a sexual and gender ideology that many consider harmful to children, based on scientific objections.”

That includes Neufeld, who JCCF says has arged “that gender ideology is scientifically false, harmful to children, and not adding any value to anti-bullying efforts.”

In his original post against SOGI 123, Neufeld called it a “weapon of propaganda to infuse every subject matter from K-12 with the latest fad: Gender theory.”

He followed that up with a sentence that has riled parents and teachers, and led to many calls for his resignation.

“At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values and I agree with the College of paediatricians that allowing little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse,” he wrote. “If this represents the values of Canadian society, count me out! I belong in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”

The comments have brought out supporters and plenty of backlash. The CUPE complaint says that has bubbled over into the workplace. Once they publicized their complaint, several more calls for resignations followed, including the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, the BC School Trustees’ Association, the Minister of Education Rob Fleming, and even Neufeld’s own Board of Education.

And on Saturday, fellow trustee Heather Maahs posted results of the vote from the in-camera meeting where the decision was made. She reported she voted against asking Neufeld to resign. Those minutes will not be made public, according to school district staff, as the meeting was in-camera.

Maahs wrote: “The Chilliwack Board of Education’s motion, of January 18th, 2018, asking for Trustee Barry Neufeld’s resignation was 4-2, with one trustee absent on medical leave. It was not unanimous. I was opposed to the motion with Trustee Neufeld. In my opinion this motion was highly unethical. Our Trustee Code of Ethics states, ‘Make no disparaging remarks, in or out of the Board meetings, about other members of the Board or their opinions.’

She continued: ‘Discussion and disagreement is the nature of politics and why we have debate. It’s one thing to disagree and debate with colleagues, it is another thing entirely to tell them they must resign because of any disagreement.’

She added her own reasons for being against SOGI 123, “because of the infringement on parental authority and the lack of evidence based research demonstrating its effectiveness in the classroom.”

According to the Justice Centre, Neufeld has issued a response to the media. It was not sent to this news outlet.

“I am interested and invested in all students receiving an excellent education regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or other group identity,” he said. “I support a safe environment for all students in our public education system, and I support a diverse and pluralistic education system, which includes children who come from homes with traditional family values or faith-based beliefs regarding marriage, sexuality, and gender. I have simply taken issue with one facet of the SOGI 1-2-3 learning resources: the teaching of the theory, as if it was fact, that gender is fluid, that there are more than two genders, and that gender is not based in biology.”

“It is my duty as an elected School Board official to speak up when the best interests of children may be compromised,” further explained Mr. Neufeld. “I will continue to do my duty as Trustee in this regard, while exercising my constitutional freedom of expression as a Canadian.”

Neufeld has stopped acting as a liaison in schools and in committees, while continuing to receive full trustee remuneration. The civic election is set for October.

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