Former Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld has taken a legal hit in B.C. Supreme Court.
In a decision handed down Aug. 22 in Vancouver, Justice Andrew Mayer ruled that he would not hear Neufeld’s petition for judicial review of a previous decision handed down by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
In January 2021 the tribunal chose to not dismiss a complaint that was brought forward in April 2018 and amended in April 2019 by members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Chilliwack Teachers Association.
The organizations did so on behalf of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ teachers employed in the Chilliwack School District who alleged that Neufeld created and published discriminatory homophobic and trans-phobic statements.
A sample of Neufeld’s statements in the complaint included the suggestion that the SOGI 123 (Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities) school initiative is an “evil ideology” which affected children’s minds, and “allowing little children to change gender is nothing short of child abuse…”
In another post he suggested that parents supporting their transgender children may have caved into threats by “transgender radicals.”
Neufeld was a trustee at the time of the statements, but lost badly in the 2022 municipal election.
In September 2019 he unsuccessfully applied to have the Human Rights Tribunal complaint dismissed.
Parts of it involving non-LGBTQ teachers were dismissed while the rest was allowed to stand. The complaint has yet to go to the tribunal for a full hearing, and Justice Mayer said Neufeld has not demonstrated “exceptional circumstances justifying judicial review.”
Mayer wouldn’t consider Neufeld’s various arguments about his commentary not being hate speech and his commentary not affecting the employment of the teachers in the complaint. Neufeld suggested that defending himself is a substantial inconvenience and expense and the Human Rights Tribunal hearing will be an attack on freedom of expression.
For Mayer though, none of that resonated, and it boiled down to Neufeld’s application being premature.
“In general, a court should not hear a judicial review petition before a tribunal has rendered a final decision – to avoid amongst other things fragmentation of issues resulting in cost and delay,” Mayer wrote.
He also wrote that “courts should be reluctant to intervene during an administrative process to avoid ‘short circuiting the decision-making role of the tribunal process, particularly when asked to review a preliminary screening decision.’ ”
Mayer said Neufeld failed to explain how his freedom of expression rights will be stifled if the complaint goes forward.
The other side of the complaint took a hit at the same time, with Mayer declining to re-instate the parts of the complaint from non-LGBTQ teachers.