Anti-SLAPP legislation to be tested in court by BCTF president

Onus will be on Trustee Neufeld to show defamation suit against Hansman has merit

A Chilliwack school trustee who became mired in the SOGI 123 controversy in 2017 is facing one of his loudest critics in court this week.

Trustee Barry Neufeld spoke strongly against the ministry-approved resource on social media, and that kicked off a maelstrom of backlash from other Chilliwack school trustees, parents in the district, and those in the LGBTQ community. It also prompted a response from the B.C. Teacher’s Federation president, Glen Hansman.

Neufeld launched a defamation suit against Hansman personally last fall, as a civil case through Chilliwack Supreme Courts. A trial by jury is currently scheduled in that matter for Dec. 2, 2019, according to court documents obtained by The Progress.

However, for Neufeld’s lawsuit to even begin, it will now have to pass muster by a judge beforehand. Hansman has requested Neufeld’s defamation be tested through new Anti-SLAPP legislation, which was brought into effect earlier this year.

This will be first time it’s being tested in court, and an application to dismiss is booked for two days (July 11 and 12) in Vancouver Supreme Court.

Both Hansman and Neufeld were in court on Thursday morning. Neufeld had several supporters, including outspoken critic of SOGI 123, Kari Simpson.

READ MORE: Neufeld could be in Chilliwack courtroom by July

The onus is on Neufeld this week to show that his 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.”

This all took place leading up to the 2018 municipal election, in which the long-time school trustee won his seat.

READ MORE: Anti-SOGI Chilliwack school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Watch www.theprogress.com for updates on the case.


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