A date in the Supreme Court of Canada has been set for the civil case between former B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman’s and Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld.
On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court of Canada granted Hansman’s leave to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against Neufeld.
That appeal will be heard by the highest court in the country on Oct. 11, 2022.
At issue is whether Hansman’s comments to The Progress and other media outlets about Neufeld constituted fair comment, and whether Neufeld’s original defamation lawsuit should be tossed out.
“I’m pleased that the Supreme Court of Canada has granted my leave to appeal, and I look forward to the appeal being heard,” Hansman told The Progress in January.
Hansman has called Neufeld’s behaviour and comments about the SOGI 123 inclusion materials in schools discriminatory, hateful, transphobic, and he has said Neufeld “shouldn’t be anywhere near students.”
Neufeld has been asked to resign from the school board by fellow trustees, and he has been censured for his comments. He is not allowed in schools.
Neufeld filed a civil lawsuit against Hansman for defamation in 2018. He claims he has “suffered indignity, personal harassment, stress, anxiety along with mental and emotional distress,” as a result of Hansman’s criticism.
Hansman replied to the defamation lawsuit with his own lawsuit through the new Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), which is designed to protect individuals from defamation lawsuits when they are criticizing public officials.
A judge tossed that out of court in 2019.
In 2020, Neufeld then looked to the B.C. Court of Appeal, and on June 9, 2021 the court sided with Neufeld.
The three-judge Appeals Court relied in part on a 2013 academic law paper that pointed out how fragile freedom is because those who seek its protection are often those who are least sympathetic, those whose views are “offensive, confrontational, and even abusive.”
That decision in practical terms overturned the dismissal under PPPA from 2019, meaning Neufeld’s defamation case would go back to a full jury trial.
Hansman’s lawyers’ application to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has the aim of overturning the BC Court of Appeal decision, effectively reinstating the BC Supreme Court’s dismissal of the defamation suit.
The SCC approved 17 different intervenors on behalf of Hansman, but rejected several others for Neufeld.
Among those intervening on behalf of Hansman, the Attorney General of B.C., the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund.
The high court dismissed applications to intervene on behalf of Neufeld by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and Karin Litzcke, a People’s Party of Canada candidate from the Vancouver area.
October 2018 – Chilliwack Board of Education trustee Barry Neufeld files civil defamation suit against Glen Hansman who was then the president of the B.C. Teachers Federation. Hansman responded by filing a counter suit through the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA)
November 2019 – B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross dismisses Neufeld’s lawsuit citing the PPPA
November 2020 – The B.C. Court of Appeal hears Neufeld’s appeal of the lower court’s dismissal
June 9, 2021 – The B.C. Court of Appeal accepts the appeal, ordering the defamation lawsuit to continue.
January 12, 2022 – The Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear Hansman’s appeal of the B.C. Court of Appeal decision.
June 28, 2022 – Appeal hearing scheduled for October 11, 2022.
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