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Supreme Court of Canada decides against former Chilliwack school trustee in defamation case

Former BCTF president Glen Hansman’s statements criticizing Barry Neufeld created ‘limited harm’
Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).

Controversial Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld’s defamation case against former B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman is finally over.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decided Hansman’s comments in 2018 calling Neufeld transphobic and saying he shouldn’t be around students are considered fair comment.

Neufeld went out of his way in 2017 to attack the Ministry of Education’s SOGI 123 program aimed to foster inclusion for students who face discrimination because of gender identity.

In the decision released Friday (May 19) morning, the SCC decided the first judge who dismissed Neufeld’s defamation lawsuit was correct in finding that the suit had the effect of suppressing debate on matters of public interest.

When the B.C. Court of Appeals overturned that decision, it erred.

“(The original judge) determined the value in protecting Mr. Hansman’s expression outweighed the harm Mr. Neufeld likely suffered.”

Writing for the majority on the SCC, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis said Neufeld suffered limited harm as he continued to express his views and even won re-election a year later.

“[T]he closer the expression lies to the core values of [freedom of expression], including truth-seeking, participating in political decision-making and diversity in the forms of self-fulfillment and human flourishing, ‘the greater the public interest in protecting it’” Karakatsanis concluded, stating that Hansman’s speech aligned with these values.

READ MORE: Chilliwack ‘fair comment’ case dismissed by judge

READ MORE: Neufeld wins appeal for freedom of expression in defamation case


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 2019B.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.

October 11, 2022SCC hearing held.

May 19, 2023 – SCC decides the original judge at the B.C. Supreme Court made the right decision and the B.C. Court of Appeal erred. Neufeld’s defamation suit is over.

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