OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a defamation lawsuit involving former Chilliwack School Board Trustee Barry Neufeld.
Neufeld was a SD 33 trustee in 2016 when the provincial government introduced a program to foster inclusion and respect for students who may face discrimination in school because of their gender identity or expression. The policy is called Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 123 (SOGI). Neufeld criticized SOGI and his comments resulted in a public controversy with some coming out in support of his views and others criticizing them and calling for his resignation.
Neufeld filed the lawsuit against Glen Hansman, a gay man, teacher and former president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. Hansman had spoken out against Neufeld, saying his views were bigoted, transphobic and hateful. He accused him of undermining safety and inclusivity for transgender and other 2SLGBTQ+ students.
When the lawsuit arrived in court, it was dismissed when the judge determined the lawsuit had the effect of suppressing debate on matters of public interest. The judge determined the value in protecting Hansman’s expression outweighed the harm Neufeld likely suffered. The Court of Appeal disagreed and allowed the defamation suit to continue. Hansman then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.