In Chilliwack, British Columbia – about a one-hour drive out of Vancouver – school board trustee Barry Neufeld has become one of the only voices on the Board of Education willing to openly criticize BC’s controversial SOGI 123 curriculum.
SOGI 123, which stands for “sexual orientation and gender identity”, is a set of educational resources to teach students from kindergarten to Grade 12 about gender identity, gender pronouns, gender stereotypes, social justice, and family diversity, among other topics.
Though teaching SOGI 123 is not mandatory, teachers are encouraged to make use of the lesson plans and worksheets. Neufeld claimed he specifically takes issue with “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.” In October 2017, Neufeld wrote a Facebook post saying that letting children choose their gender is “child abuse” – a remark for which he later apologized.
Many are now trying to intimidate Neufeld out of his position. BC Education Minister Rob Fleming has called on Neufeld to resign; BC Teachers’ Federation President Glen Hansman said that Neufeld must either “step down or be pushed out, one way or the other”, and the Chilliwack School District board voted in January 2018 to urge Neufeld to resign after the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association called on Neufeld to be officially denounced for expressing opinions in violation of the BC Human Rights Code.
Additionally, the Maple Ridge school board declined to host a BC School Trustee Association meeting in February because Neufeld, as a sitting school trustee himself, intended to attend. The Maple Ridge school board claimed Neufeld had publicly expressed views that contravene their “Safe, Caring, and Healthy Schools” policy, and therefore they could not allow him to attend a meeting within their district.
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Neufeld became aware of a human rights complaint against himself and the Chilliwack School District in January 2018. The complaint was filed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 411 (CUPE 411), which represents approximately 800 School District support staff.
CUPE 411 claims that the School District has violated the BC Human Rights Code by not censuring or removing Neufeld as a trustee, and that Neufeld’s statements have created an “unsafe” and “discriminatory” working environment for employees. CUPE 411 filed the human rights complaint without first consulting its local members.
Because the human rights complaint arose from Neufeld’s activities as a school trustee, the BC Public Sector Employer’s Association is retaining a lawyer for him. However, Neufeld is launching a separate case to defend himself from the “slanderous” attacks on his character by the Ministry of Education, the President of the BC Teachers’ Federation, the Maple Ridge School Board, and the Chilliwack School Board.
A legal defence fund has been set up to assist with Neufeld’s legal costs. The crowdfunding campaign has been set up by the elusive “Coalition of Concerned Canadians”, who do not maintain a web presence or name themselves. According to the anonymous campaign organizer, the Coalition is a group of “ordinary people” who have decided to “take action in preserving our democracy and free speech” but do not want to risk being harassed by going public. All donations to the campaign have so far been anonymous.
Although many may feel Neufeld’s legal defence is worth raising money for, they are seemingly unwilling to publicly put their name to such a politically incorrect cause: Neufeld says the person who set up the crowdfunding campaign doesn’t want their employer to find out, as they believe they may lose their job.
Despite spending his career working with at-risk youth, Neufeld is now not allowed to go into the schools of the district he was elected to represent. At the high school graduation ceremonies this past June, he was not permitted to go on stage and hand out scholarships.
And though he was supposed to deliver the graduation speech at Sardis Secondary School this year, he was told by the school principal he would no longer be allowed to do so, as it “might upset an LGBTQ+ student on their special day.”
While Neufeld was originally not planning on running again for trustee, saying he was “getting tired of the way school trustees were being side-lined by the unions and the bureaucrats in the Provincial government”, he now plans to run for re-election in October 2018, after seeing that so many people value his voice on the Chilliwack board of education, which so many others are viciously trying to censor.