Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).

Controversial Chilliwack trustee wins appeal for freedom of expression in defamation case

Barry Neufeld’s lawsuit against former BCTF president Glen Hansman will now continue

Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld has won his appeal against a court decision dismissing his defamation lawsuit against former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman.

In a written decision posted Wednesday morning, the Court of Appeal for B.C. found that the judge who dismissed Neufeld’s claim under the Protection of Public Participation Act erred in assessing whether there was likely a valid defence of fair comment.

The three justices relied in part on a 2013 academic law paper that pointed out how fragile freedom is because those who seek its protection are often those who are least sympathetic, those whose views are “offensive, confrontational, and even abusive.”

“[T]ransgressions that are merely offensive must be tolerated and addressed by other means,” Prof. Jamie Cameron wrote as quoted by the appeals court decision.

“Defamatory comments that accuse someone of committing hate speech can inflict serious reputational harm,” Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon wrote in the decision. “The judge’s error was in failing to consider the collateral effect that preventing Mr. Neufeld from defending himself from such serious accusations could have on other individual’s willingness to express themselves on issues of public interest in future.”

In 2018, Neufeld filed a civil lawsuit against Hansman for comments the former BCTF president made about the trustee in 2017 in the debate about anti-bullying gender identity materials used in schools in B.C., SOGI-123.

Neufeld has been vocal in his staunch opposition to SOGI, criticism that has been labelled anti-LGBTQ and homophobic by many people, Hansman included.

BC Supreme Justice Alan Ross tossed out the defamation suit in 2019 following anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation, also saying it had no reasonable prospect of success, and calling Neufeld’s submissions “skeletal at best.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack ‘fair comment’ case dismissed by judge

READ MORE: BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

This was the first time the anti-SLAPP legislation has been used in court.

Neufeld’s affidavit in that court hearing was just three paragraphs long. The second paragraph said: “That, the public portrayal of me as a hateful, intolerant, homophobic, religious bigot and a threat to the safety of children commenced with the defendant’s statement on October 24, 2017 as I have pleaded herein.”

Neufeld then appealed the dismissal, that hearing was held Nov. 25 and 26, 2020.

Hansman’s lawyer Robyn Trask relied on the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case involving radio broadcaster Rafe Mair. In the 2008 decision, WIC Radio Ltd. v Simpson, the case addressed Mair’s on-air comments about Kari Simpson, a socially conservative activist with Culture Guard. Mair said Simpson was encouraging violence, and he compared her to Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads.

In 2006, the BC Court of Appeal found that Mair did defame Simpson and that fair comment could not be relied upon. The Supreme Court similarly agreed about the defamation, but allowed Mair’s appeal, essentially rewriting the law, stating that the old test for defamation could no longer be used.

“With respect to fair comment, we say Mr. Hansman’s comments were a reasonable and proportionate response [to Neufeld’s comments about the LGBTQ community],” Trask said.

Neufeld’s lawyer argued that tossing out the lawsuit prevented “Neufeld from having a day in court for a libel claim for the benefit of a party [Hansman] that has used libel to shut down debate.”

That hearing was held Nov. 26, 2020, with the decision reserved until Wednesday (June 8, 2021).


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School District

Just Posted

Grant De Patie. (The News files)
Virtual sit-in in memory of Maple Ridge gas attendant killed in 2005

Protest for stronger safety protections for late-night workers

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows does not need new RCMP detachment

Local resident says the price tag is too much

Maple Ridge author Tiffany-Ann Bottcher is one of 21 authors whose real-life stories are featured in the new book Women in Business in a Changing World. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge author shares real-life story to inspire women in business

Tiffany-Ann Bottcher, is a long-time Maple Ridge resident, a full-time business coach and blogger

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. There’s new evidence the Vancouver police were warned about a possible riot days before violence broke out during the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs on June 15. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
Maple Ridge residents share Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot memories

June 15th was 10th anniversary of Canucks Game 7 loss

Maple Ridge's Ron Paley aimed the camera skyward, to the clouds earlier this week, while out for one of his regular bike rides through Pitt Meadows and Mape Ridge. This time, he shared some images he caught while biking to Pitt River Bridge, then north up to the dikes and back around to Laity Street. "Awesome weather for biking… and the cloud formations were unique." (Special to The News)
SHARE: Cyclist stops to admire the clouds

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read