Teachers' union files complaint against trustee over anti-trans comments
The BC Teachers' Federation has launched a human rights complaint against a controversial Chilliwack school trustee following comments he made involving transgender students.
The union said Barry Neufeld's remarks have created an unsafe work environment.
A copy of the complaint obtained by CTV News accuses the trustee of making and publishing discriminatory homophobic and transphobic statements.
The complaint made to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal outlines a Facebook post Neufeld wrote in October, as well as several comments he made publicly in the months that followed.
In December, he is alleged to have posted on Facebook that he doesn't want to "give in to the self serving agenda" of LGBTQ groups who "want to be given priority as the most downtrodden of victims."
According to the complaint, he went on to say: "The scary thing is that it has already demonized people of faith who believe that God created humans male and female: In the image of God…If you don't get off your duffs and push back against this insidious new teching (sic), the day is coming…when the government will apprehend your children and put them in homes where they will be encouraged to explore homosexuality and gender fluidity."
The post is no longer visible on his page.
Those behind the complaint claim that although he has stated that he has no hate toward students who identify as transgender, Neufeld's comments are likely to expose trans individuals, their families and teachers who provide an inclusive classroom to hatred.
The complainants seek an order from the tribunal that Neufeld has breached the Human Rights Code, and that he be ordered to make a payment to a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ youth.
Neufeld has been vocal about his opposition to anti-bullying resources, specifically those intended to help trans students.
Last fall, Neufeld wrote a since-deleted Facebook post saying those who allow young children to "change gender" are committing "nothing short of child abuse." He called resources issued by the province to help guide the lessons on gender identity "biologically absurd."
An emergency meeting was held the day after the post, and Neufeld issued an apology later in the week. He said his criticism was directed at the teaching tools specifically, not at anyone who identifies as trans.
"Those who have worked with me for over 24 years know that I DO believe in inclusion and a safe learning environment for all of our students," he said in a written statement.
"They should be protected from all forms of bullying and intimidation."
But a month after the public apology, Neufeld reiterated his comments about child abuse at a meeting in Abbotsford.
He said the inclusive educational guide enables "dysfunctional behaviour and thinking patterns," and again likened use of puberty blockers and hormone therapy to child abuse.
The comments were made at an event held in protest of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) program, which is aimed at providing support for LGBTQ students.
"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."
Months later, B.C.'s education minister called for the trustee to step down.
In January, Minister Rob Fleming said it would be the "right thing," and that while Neufeld is entitled to his opinion, he jeopardized student safety and divided the school community with his comments. He also acted against ministry and board policies, Fleming said.
Neufeld has said he has no plans to resign from the position, and that he objected to a claim from the Chilliwack Board of Education that his comments were contrary to the province's Human Rights Code.
He said he intends to remain on the board, acting as "a lonely voice protecting impressionable children who I believe will be confused and harmed."