BC Education Minister Rob Fleming. (Photo Credit: Taran Parmar, Roundhouse Radio.)

Education minister blasts Chilliwack school trustee on gender issues

Fleming calls Neufeld’s behaviour ‘shameful’ and ‘unacceptable’

The Minister of Education has spoken out against the actions of a Chilliwack school trustee who has aligned himself with Culture Guard.

Trustee Barry Neufeld was a highlighted speaker and honoured guest at a Culture Guard meeting on Tuesday night. Culture Guard and Neufeld are both against the use of a Ministry of Education approved teaching resource called SOGI 123.

“As Minister of Education, a father of two school-aged children and a public school student in the 1980s – when LGBTQ students were not at all supported and were actively targeted for widespread bullying – I can say unequivocally that our province will keep moving forward. There is no turning back,” Minister of Education Rob Fleming said in a statement emailed to The Chilliwack Progress on Wednesday.

“It’s disturbing that Chilliwack School District Trustee Barry Neufeld attended and spoke at the hateful event held last evening by “Culture Guard”. Clearly the apology in October was not sincere. Elected trustees are supposed to advocate for students not hurt them. In the same week that the Prime Minister of Canada announced an apology is coming for decades of discrimination and persecution of the LGBTQ community – Mr. Neufeld and ‘Culture Guard’ was spreading the same bigoted views that are part of Canada’s painful past.”

Fleming added that children will be affected by Neufeld’s stance against inclusion.

“This sort of shameful behaviour can and will lead to suicide and this is unacceptable,” he said. “As a society we cannot allow discrimination against people for who they identify as or choose to love. I applaud hundreds of parents, students and members of the community who rallied in support of SOGI and to stand up for inclusivity in our schools. It is crucial that we help to ensure all students feel welcome in BC Schools, regardless of who they choose to love or who they identify as.”

On Thursday, Fleming gathered with other politicians, including Liberal MLA and former education minister Mike Bernier, in Victoria to pledge their support for sexual orientation and gender identity programs:

READ: Liberal and NDP MLAs stand together in support of SOGI education

Calls for resignation

Another Chilliwack school trustee, Dan Coulter, called for Neufeld’s resignation on Wednesday.

“It is with sadness and disappointment that I must call for the resignation of Trustee Barry Neufeld from the Chilliwack Board of Education.

As Trustees responsible for the wellbeing and safety of all students in our district, we are tasked with fostering a safe and inclusive environment where all students feel like they belong. This work requires us to be able to leave any prejudices at the door. Barry Neufeld is no longer capable of that.

Words and actions matter. As Trustees, we must understand the impact of our actions before we take them. Trustee Neufeld has proved repeatedly that he cannot do this and is unable to move past his own narrow worldview. Time and again Trustee Neufeld has referred to transgender people as “mentally ill”, and said that allowing students to talk about gender is “child abuse” and “biologically absurd”. He has lamented that opposition to his views means that he “belongs in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”

“Last night he attended a rally against implementation of the SOGI curriculum by the Chilliwack school district. As he has before, he made disparaging comments about the program, calling it “an indoctrination” and that he plans to run next year on a campaign opposing it.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are specifically protected under British Columbia’s Human Rights Code. If we don’t respect the human rights of all our students, they mean nothing. Barry Neufeld was my friend, but I regret that the time has come for him to resign as a Trustee with the Chilliwack School District.”

The Progress attended the Culture Guard rally on Tuesday night, tweeting out videos and information as the rally carried on.

READ: Chilliwack school trustee says he will run on ‘gender-positive’ platform next year

READ: Column: Chilliwack school trustee should step down

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