A school trustee in Chilliwack has come out swinging against sexual orientation and gender identity policies.
Barry Neufeld posted a long statement on his publicly-accessible Facebook page, saying “I can no longer sit on my hands. I have to stand up and be counted.”
He called the new efforts by the Ministry of Education to create tolerance for all sexualities “the latest fad” that has turned into a “weapon of propaganda” for gender theories.
“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. “But now the BC Ministry of Education has embraced the LGBTQ lobby and is forcing this biologically absurd theory on children in our schools.”
He ended the post by saying if this is what Canadian values are becoming “count me out,” and that he’d rather live in “Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”
Neufeld also posted a meme that compared parents in 1997 and 2017. In the 1997 image, a dad yells at his son that he can’t get his ears pierced. In the 2017, a mom consoles her son who says “I think I’m supposed to be a girl.” The mom says “Okay, sweetie. We’ll start hormone treatment immediately!”
The post instantly drew criticism, along with some praise, from others.
Amoung the most notable critics was Morgane Oger, a trans woman who ran for an NDP seat in the last provincial election.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” she scolded. “Given your position in leadership, you should know better than to quote a widely discredited pseudo-science source in order to publish hateful material against a minority group. At the very least, consult the credible sources that are widely available to you. The UBC faculty of Nursing has done excellent work on anti-trans bigotry.”
She added that there are laws to protect people from the very type of comments he posted, including sections 7(a) and 7(b) of the BC Human Rights Code.
Neufeld’s post seems to be at odds with a recent public statement by the BCSTA, which says in part: “As stewards of public schools and their students across our province, it is important that we speak out against intolerance and prejudice in any school district or community in British Columbia. … Embedded in that is the responsibility of upholding of each and every student’s and staff member’s right to a safe and inclusive environment, where they can express themselves without fear of discrimination or harassment.”
The BCTSA contacted Black Press to note that Neufeld is not a representative of the organization, and that his opinions are not that of the BCSTA.
At least one parent asked Neufeld to resign as a trustee in light of the post.
“Is it safe to assume that you are stepping down as Trustee?” asked Jared Mumford. “And if so, when will you submit your resignation to the board?”
Former Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus also called for him to resign, as well as apologize.
— Patti Bacchus (@pattibacchus) October 23, 2017
As for the school district, superintendent Evelyn Novak says they will continue working with the board on inclusion. When asked for comment on Neufeld’s public post, Novak said the board approved changes to policy back in October 2016, regarding safe schools, to follow revised legislative requirements for the BC Charter of Human Rights and Freedom and the BC Human Rights Code.
The regulation statest that: “Schools are expected to establish a code of conduct that is consistent with board policies and regulations, the BC Charter of Human Rights and Freedom, the BC Human Rights Code and provincial standards. In establishing and maintaining a school code of conduct schools are required to: Communicate in language appropriate for the student audience the prohibitions against discrimination as set out in the BC Human Rights Code (race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and age).”
Novak added, “future discussions with the Board will include SOGI and our continued work on inclusion.”
The District’s Parent Advisory Council’s chair, Justine Hodge, also noted that the post “is in direct contradiction of The Charter of Rights and Freedom, The School Act, The BC School Trustees Association, and his own policy manual.”
“His comments promote the exclusion and isolation of a growing subset of children, including those with same-sex parents,” she said. “The fact is we have transgender students and staff in our schools and it is his duty to ensure a safe and positive learning environment for all. The Chilliwack District Parent Advisory Council’s mandate is to represent all parents, including those in same sex marriages or with children who have chosen genders. For that reason, the Chilliwack District Parent Advisory Council does not agree with or condone Mr. Neufeld’s comments.”
The BCSTA and the Chilliwack School Board Chair have also been contacted for comment on this emerging story.
Neufeld isn’t a sole voice against SOGI policies. In Surrey, a group called Parents United Canada is filing an “urgent” human rights complaint after it was told it could not rent the Bell Performing Arts Centre for a rally next month to inform parents about efforts to stop a curriculum program called SOGI 123.
And in Abbotsford recently, about 150 people attended a meeting to rally opposition to policies meant to make LGBT students feel safe and welcome in Abbotsford schools.