The union that represents Chilliwack school support workers, custodians, transportation staff and others has filed a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal.
The complaint, by CUPE 411, is against school trustee Barry Neufeld and the Chilliwack School Board. Back in November, Neufeld began a series of public comments airing his beliefs about transgender policies, gender theories, and family values, in light of the province adopting new teaching resources to address sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.
His attitudes, expressed online, in board meetings and in spoken public forums, created “an unsafe work environment for CUPE members and other Board employees” the HRT complaint states, as confirmed by board chair Paul McManus.
The complaint asks for a declatory order that the board has breached the Human Rights Code, and that all trustees and senior management take part in training on LGBTQ equality rights, and on protecting LGBTQ students in schools.
They are also seeking an order to direct the board to enforce their own policy to adopt a motion of censure. In addition, they are asking that a fee of $50,000 in compensation for “injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect” be paid on behalf of affected employee to a non-profit group that advocates for LGBTQ youth.
The board recieved notice of the complaint on Monday afternoon (Jan. 15), confirmed McManus.
“There’s not a whole lot we can talk about at this point,” he said. “We’ve had to forward it onto legal for advice.”
McManus added that the whole discussion has overshadowed all of the other work the board has had at its table over the past few months, including a massive plan to reconfigure school grades.
“We keep trying to move forward with the other business of the board with all of this in the background,” he said. “But we keep constantly breaking out in these conversations.”
While he says that the conversation around SOGI and inclusion are important, there are certain things people want that the board just can’t do. There are people who oppose Neufeld who want him fired by the board, which is not legally possible, McManus said. On the other hand there are Neufeld supporters who believe schools are involved with gender reassignment surgeries and puberty blockers, which also isn’t factual, he added.
“This all stems from these personal opinions Barry’s thrown out there and we have to deal with as a board because of who he has aligned himself with,” McManus said. In November, Neufeld spoke as a special guest at a Culture Guard rally in Chilliwack. He has also sent out a mass email to his supporters to ask them to email the District Parent Advisory Council chair, Justine Hodge, after the DPAC called for his resignation. He asked his supporters to “challenge her opinions” and suggested Hodge would be running against him in the school board elections in October.
Hodge has never stated an intention to run for school board, and the provincial confederation of PACs has written to support the Chilliwack DPAC’s actions.