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

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

Bella Coola RCMP are alerting residents that the road between 4 Mile subdivision and downtown will be closed until at least tomorrow. (File image)
4 Mile to downtown road closed in Bella Coola

Police it will remain closed until Saturday, at least

The Bella Coola area also received a large dump of snow as seen here Friday, Nov. 27, but by the afternoon it had started to rain there. (submitted photo)
Update: More than 900 Bella Coola customers without power, expected to last overnight

Highway 20 remains closed between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola Friday, Nov. 27

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Ruby Squinas photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Heavy rainfall is expected through the region through today and into Friday (Caitlin Thompson photo)
High streamflow advisory issued for Bella Coola, Central Coast

The heaviest rain is expected Thursday night and into Friday and is expected to ease later Friday

Jennifer Rice is sworn into legislature as NDP BC Northcoast MLA via online ceremonies on Nov. 24 by Premier John Horgan and Kate Ryan-Lloyd clerk of the legislature. (Photo supplied)
Jennifer Rice sworn in as NDP North Coast MLA

BC legislature has highest women governed caucus in Canadian history

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read