School trustee renews remarks against trans-friendly curriculum
Barry Neufeld was first elected to Chilliwack's Board of Education in 1992. (Barry Neufeld/Facebook)
Published Wednesday, November 22, 2017 10:07AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 22, 2017 3:20PM PST
A Chilliwack school trustee has once again sparked controversy after alleging that B.C.'s inclusive gender identity curriculum enables "dysfunctional behaviour and thinking patterns,” a month after apologizing for making similar remarks on social media.
"I consider that rushing into the use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender reassignment is child abuse," Barry Neufeld told a crowd at a meeting in Abbotsford Tuesday.
"This will have the effect of confusing children, disturbing their personal security and mental health."
The event was held in protest of the province's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) program which is aimed at providing support for LGBTQ students in public schools.
"Instead of coddling and encouraging what I regard as the sexual addiction of gender confusion, I believe children should be gently encouraged to be comfortable with their bodies," Neufeld said. "The message of SOGI is a subtle but powerful suggestion that there is something wrong with the child, that all children should considering rejecting their gender identity."
Neufeld, who was been on the Chilliwack Board of Education since the early 1990s, came under fire last month over a Facebook post that made similar remarks, calling the trans-friendly curriculum "biologically absurd."
"At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values," he said in the post. "Allowing little children to change gender is nothing short of child abuse."
Neufeld later deleted the post and apologized for his rant amid mounting public backlash.
The school board announced he would not lose his job, but his remarks prompted an emergency meeting in the district.
On Tuesday, Neufeld also defended himself against the fallout from the Facebook post
"Many people have been shocked at the outpouring of vicious name-calling, abusiveness and even threats by my critics in the media," he said. "The supporters of SOGI are the true bullies and want to shut down any further discussion."
Critics have condemned Neufeld’s comments, calling his point of view dangerous the LGBTQ community.
"I think he's absolutely wrong," said Education Minister Rob Fleming. "He's on the wrong side of history on this issue.”
Morgane Oger, a transgender woman and NDP candidate, has also spoken out, calling Neufeld's remarks "disgusting" and "unacceptable."
"The trustee's role as an elected official is to ensure that everybody is safe in the Chilliwack school district," Oger told CTV News in October. "That trustee has made it so that today, students and staff who are transgender are less safe and less looked after."
Others, however, are defending the trustee’s comments.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, a Vancouver author who attended the event, called Neufeld "a hero in our culture."
"(Transgender) kids are at risk of being put in a very high suicide category and yet these irrational parents and some teachers see no issue at all with full support of an illogical, unscientific state of mind. Just stop!" she wrote.
Meanwhile, educations officials have been caught in the crossfire as they try to strike an awkward balance between the trustee's right to express his opinions and the district's mandate to protect the sensitivities of those most affected by SOGI 123.
"Being an elected official on the school board, you have to consider the things you say and the opinions you express because people will mix the two up," said school board chair Paul McManus.
Neither the ministry nor the Chilliwack School District have responded the Neufeld's most recent comments.
With files from The Canadian Press