Former Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld is attempting to get a defamation lawsuit against him dismissed.
Neufeld was sued by Carin Bondar last November over comments he made during an online show called Empower Hour. Offered by Action4Canada, a right-leaning group committed to faith, family and freedom, the Sept. 6, 2021 program was open to the public through the Zoom platform. During his appearance Neufeld called Bondar “a striptease artist,” referring to an educational video she once made for her students at the University of the Fraser Valley.
“Richard Procee ran against that strip-tease artist in the byelection four years ago,’” Neufeld said, referring to a 2021 by-election between Bondar and Procee.
That video, called Organisms do Evolve, was a parody of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. In it, Bondar sits on a wrecking ball as it swings back and forth, dressed in a white tank top, underwear and boots. In the Cyrus version, Miley licks a sledgehammer. Bondar licks a microscope, and at one point she is nude except for her boots.
Bondar’s lawsuit came in the midst of a heated municipal election last November which resulted in Bondar winning the most votes in Chilliwack. Neufeld finished 12th out of 15 candidates.
In his application to have her defamation suit dismissed, Neufeld described Bondar’s performance as “vulgar, pornographic, degrading to women, a bad example to children, immoral and inappropriate for public officials, especially school board trustees.”
He said it’s in the public interest to shine a spotlight on it, and his application comes under the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), which according to a Canadian Bar Association column “targets litigation aimed at silencing debate on issues of public interest.”
“The PPPA may provide legal protection to individuals who have had proceedings commenced against them for expressing themselves on matters of public interest,” the CBA article explained.
According to Neufeld’s application, “litigation intended to punish and silence critics in the public arena is the very mischief the PPPA seeks to prevent.”
Neufeld has been on the other side of a PPPA matter. He launched a defamation suit against former B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman in October 2018. After Neufeld put out a lengthy anti-LGBTQ social media post about the provincial government’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) anti-bullying program, Hansman called him transphobic and said he should be removed from public office and not be allowed anywhere near students.
Hansman responded through the PPPA, arguing that since Neufeld is a public figure, he could be criticized without threat of defamation. That case wound its way to the Supreme Court of Canada last October, with a decision still to come.
Neufeld’s current application will be heard in B.C. Supreme Court Feb. 6-7.
– With files from Paul Henderson