Ottawa/Chilliwack (with files from Canadian Press) – It has been a long and bumpy legal ride for this case and in the end, former Chilliwack School Trustee will not have his day in the highest court of the land.
The Supreme Court of Canada voted 6-1 against a defamation lawsuit initiated years ago (2017) by a school trustee against a teacher’s union president should not proceed.
The full SCOC decision is here.
Barry Neufeld, who was a trustee in Chilliwack, made negative comments in 2017 about how a sexual orientation and gender identity program was being implemented in the province’s schools.
Glen Hansman, head of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation at the time, criticized Neufeld’s comments when interviewed by the media, prompting the trustee to bring a defamation claim.
The original detailed FVN story is here.
Next up is a case filed by current school Trustee Dr Carin Bondar who accused Neufeld of defamation with comments that she was a “strip tease artist”. This was on a podcast and referring to an educational biology video that Bondar had made. Bondar filed legal action in October 2022.
Bondar’s partner Peter Lang commented on social media:
The BCTF BC Teachers Federation released a statement on their website:
The Supreme Court of Canada issued its judgment today in Hansman v Neufeld. The ruling restores a BC Supreme Court decision dismissing a defamation suit by former Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld against former BCTF President Glen Hansman.
The decision is the first from Canada’s highest court to consider British Columbia’s anti-SLAPP legislation, the Protection of Public Participation Act. It is alsothe first to describe the discrimination faced by transgender individuals in Canada.
The ruling affirms the public interest of counter-speech, which involves countering ignorant or harmful statements with responses “motivated by a desire to promote tolerance and respect for a marginalized group in society.” The Court recognized that while counter-speech is not necessarily a complete solution to harmful expression, it plays an important role in a healthy society and is aligned with Charter values.
Statement from former BCTF President Glen Hansman
“I hope this decision makes things easier for anyone speaking in defense of a marginalized community, particularly those speaking in defense of 2SLGBTQ youth and trans people generally, without having to be fearful of retaliatory legal action.”
Statement from BCTF President Clint Johnston
“Today’s ruling is a clear win for anyone who has faced legal action that aims to intimidate or silence legitimate public criticism.
It is also an affirmation of the importance of standing up for vulnerable communities and marginalized individuals.I want everyone in British Columbia’s education community, particularly LGBTQ2S+ teachers, students, and families, to know that the BCTF will always stand up for your safety and inclusion in our schools.”