Days after reaction to an anti-transgender, conspiracy-theory post by Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld grew louder, the controversial board member issued a brief public apology.
On Saturday evening (May 9), Neufeld posted a video to his Facebook page of a satirical comic, along with his own jabs at the World Health Organization and Dr. Theresa Tam. It quickly made national news, as people shared an image of the post around social media channels.
Neufeld spoke at the May 12 school board meeting held via Zoom about his Facebook post that was taken down soon after the criticism emerged.
“I deeply regret and apologize for my comments on social media,” Neufeld said. “I will be addressing them more in the near future.”
The post suggested that Dr. Tam, who is Canada’s chief public health officer and is leading the charge against the novel coronavirus, is actually transgender. Further to that, Neufeld suggested that she shouldn’t be trusted because of it.
“If this person, who has spent a major portion of their life deceiving people as to who she/he truly is and is now a major player in the corrupt World Health Organization, why should we believe anything he/she says?” the post read in part.
By Monday (May 11), a petition was created by 15-year-old Sardis secondary student Sophie Jones on change.org called Remove Barry Neufeld from Chilliwack School District. By May 13 at 4:30 p.m. it had more than 6,600 signatures. While the Ministry of Education cannot remove a single trustee, many of those signing have said it makes a statement from the public.
“This person is elected to serve and represent every student in the school district. When a person chooses to only serve some, at the expensive of the many, he has simply abdicated his responsibility and is not doing his job,” one comment said.
But his post, which was covered in virtually all media over the weekend, also moved others to instead let the world know that Chilliwack is not to be defined by one set of views.
Someone created the social media hashtag #ThisIsMyChilliwack to be used to share positive stories and images, in an attempt to counter the negative news coverage. It caught on quickly with educators.
The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, which currently has a Human Rights Tribunal complaint against Neufeld, was leading the charge in the positivity campaign.
“Chilliwack teachers do amazing work every day. We love our community. Use #ThisIsMyChilliwack and #bced to show what we are all about. Share what you are doing that demonstrates respect, inclusivity, and positivity in Chilliwack.”
The BC Teachers’ Federation also tweeted out about Chilliwack using the hashtag.
“The community is so much better than the impression one trustee leaves with his hurtful views,” the union stated.
The hashtag has prompted teachers, parents, staff and even former staff to chime in with their best moments of caring and inclusion through school settings in Chilliwack.
The CTA has also called on Education Minister Rob Fleming to appoint a special investigator to review the Chilliwack Board of Education.
How Neufeld plans to address his social media comments “in the near future” is unclear. He has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
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