Chilliwack school board asks trustee to resign over comments about transgender children

The Chilliwack board of education is asking trustee Barry Neufeld to resign in the wake of comments he made last fall about transgender children. Neufeld says he has no plans to step down.

Barry Neufeld says he won't resign despite multiple calls for him to step down

School trustee Barry Neufeld set off a firestorm of controversy after posting a Facebook message that called B.C. educators 'radical cultural nihilists' for gender policies in schools. (Chilliwack School Board)

The Chilliwack board of education is asking trustee Barry Neufeld to resign in the wake of comments he made last fall about transgender children.

It comes after the Chilliwack Teachers' Association called on the board to officially denounce Neufeld earlier this week. 

In a written statement, the board said it passed a motion during an in-camera meeting on Thursday detailing a loss of confidence in "Neufeld's ability to effectively perform the duties of a trustee."

"Trustee Neufeld has publicly expressed strong opinions in opposition to the changes in the B.C. Human Rights Code that was expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity," the board wrote.

But in a release issued Friday evening, Neufeld said he has no plans to step down.

Denies opposition to changes

Neufeld, in his release, said he has never opposed changes to the B.C. Human Rights Code and has never said anything contrary to the code.

"I have simply taken issue with ... the teaching of the controversial gender-fluid theory, as if it was fact, that gender is fluid, that there are more than two genders and that gender is not based in biology," he wrote.

But last October, Neufeld faced widespread criticism after he denounced members of B.C.'s education system in a Facebook post as "radical cultural nihilists" for their policies on gender rights and education. 

Neufeld wrote that "letting little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse."

Minister backs board

In a written statement, Education Minister Rob Fleming said he supported the board's decision.

"The hurtful and offensive words and actions of Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld continue to undermine this district and ministry goal," Fleming said.

"While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Mr. Neufeld has jeopardized student safety, divided his school community and acted against board and ministry policies."

Fleming said the B.C. School Act doesn't give the ministry the authority to dismiss individual trustees. 

"It's time for him to now do the right thing for the Chilliwack school community and step down," he said.

Pressure from teachers' association

On Tuesday, the Chilliwack Teachers' Association passed a motion of non-confidence against the Chilliwack school board and called on trustees to take action

CTA president Lee-Anne Clarke said the board hasn't done enough to speak out against Neufeld's comments, and the association's members have become increasingly frustrated about "growing anti-LGBTQ sentiments" in the community.

On Monday, the union that supports education support workers in Chilliwack, CUPE 411, submitted a complaint against Neufeld and the school district to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

The complaint says "the board has failed to provide a work environment free of discrimination."

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.