News / Vancouver

Human rights complaint filed against Chilliwack trustee who called gender transition 'abuse'

Support staff union says Barry Neufeld's comments created unsafe work environment

NONE Barry Neufeld is a trustee on the Chilliwack School board. Uploaded by: Boyd, Alex

Metro Web Upload

NONE Barry Neufeld is a trustee on the Chilliwack School board. Uploaded by: Boyd, Alex

Months after Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld first compared gender transitioning to child abuse, the union representing school board staff has filed a human rights complaint against Neufeld and the board.

In the document filed to the BC Human Rights Tribunal on Monday, CUPE Local 411 alleges the board failed to provide a workplace free of harassment by not disciplining Neufeld.

Shana Kirkland, president of Local 411 – which represents non-teaching staff – said that Neufeld’s comments prevented all employees from feeling “accepted and included” at work.

“The comments that Mr. Neufeld made were disparaging against people who gender identify as genders different from the ones they were born with and also people who identify as homosexual or anywhere in the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Neufeld first gained attention in October, after he posted on Facebook that "allowing little children [to] choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse." Then in November, he spoke at a rally held by a group called Culture Guard, where he described transgender kids as suffering “the sexual addiction of gender confusion.”

In the complaint, Local 411 argues the board should have “censured” the outspoken trustee, and points out board leadership admitted the controversy had caused problems.

The complaint notes that School Board Chair Paul McManus told local newspaper The Progress at the time that the comments had created “anxiety and concern amongst trustees, staff, parents and students.”

When asked by Metro, Neufeld denied allegations he’d created an unsafe work environment, adding that he was trying to protect students.

“I believe in inclusion for all students, regardless of what they are struggling with in life, and I just don’t want them to make irreversible decisions [and transition genders] that they may come to regret later,” he said.

Neufeld did admit that parents of trans kids might be offended by his comments if they have already “given into that fear” and allowed their children to transition.

Chilliwack School Superintendent Evelyn Novak said the school board is seeking legal advice on how to respond to the human rights complaint, but she did stress that the board has been vocal in its support of LGBTQ students and staff.

"The board has been very clear…that the statements made by Barry Neufeld were of his personal opinion,” she said. “[The board] supports our students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background as per the BC human rights code.”

The complaint asks that the board donate $50,000 to LGBTQ youth advocacy.

More on