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

Landmark ‘fair comment’ case settled between B.C. school trustee and former union president

Glen Hansman’s application to have Neufeld defamation case thrown out granted by B.C. judge

A defamation lawsuit against the former president of the BC teachers’ union by a Chilliwack school trustee has been dismissed before it even got to trial.

Trustee Barry Neufeld had filed a defamation suit against Glen Hansman, who at the time was the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. He launched the suit in October 2018 after Hansman responded in the media to Neufeld’s statements on the controversial SOGI 123.

In response, Hansman filed his own suit through the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), claiming Neufeld is a public figure and was open to being criticized without threat of defamation. That was heard in July 2o19, and a court date for the defamation suit was tentatively set for this December.

But that case won’t be happening now.

Justice A. Ross released his decision on Wednesday, saying that his decision has “nothing to do with ‘correctness’ of either party’s position on that issue (SOGI 123).”

He noted the intent of the PPPA legislation is “to screen out actions that have the effect of limiting a defendant’s participation in public debate. In that respect, the PPPA seeks to balance the rights of individuals to protect their reputations against the obvious benefit to a democratic society of protecting free speech and rigorous debate on issues of public interest.”

Hansman argued that he had every right to speak out against Neufeld’s comments, which he said harmed him and the LGBTQ community. Hansman is openly gay. Neufeld said that Hansman’s comments were made in malice, and harmed him as well.

Neufeld did not prove to the court, the judge stated, that substantial damage had been done to his reputation. He called Neufeld’s evidence “skeletal at best.” Neufeld did also win a following election and remains on the Chilliwack school board.

Furthermore, one of the most controversial statements made by Neufeld were on a Facebook post in which he concedes he was posting “at the risk of being labelled a bigotted homophobe.”

Some of the things Hansman said about Neufeld in the time of the SOGI 123 debates included calling him transphobic, saying he should be removed from public office, and nowhere near students.

But in the end, Ross sided with Hansman’s argument for public debate.

“I have further found that the PPPA requires me to balance the seriousness of the harm suffered by the plaintiff (Neufeld) and the public interest in continuing the proceeding against the public interest in protecting the defendant’s (Hansman) expression. The plaintiff has an interest in claiming damages and clearing his good name. However, the public has an interest in protecting expressions that relate to public debate. In balancing those interests, I find that the interest in public debate outweighs the interest in continuing the proceeding on these facts.”

Ross’s decision now means that Neufeld’s defamation case will not go through. This was reportedly the first time the so called “anti-SLAPP” legislation has been tested in court.

Story is developing. More to come.

READ MORE: Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

A group of Abbotsford secondary principals’s and vice-principals are at a retreat in Whistler this weekend. (Whistler.com photo)
Abbotsford principals attending retreat in Whistler despite COVID-19 gathering restrictions

Unclear how reported group of 20 will be following COVID-19 protocols during Whistler Pro-D event

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of Abbotsford student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

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

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read