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Former Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld wants defamation suit dismissed

Barry Neufeld wants a defamation case against him dismissed under a law targeting lawsuits intended to silence debate on public interest issues.
Barry Neufeld

A former Chilliwack school board trustee wants a B.C. Supreme Court defamation suit filed by a political opponent dismissed.

In a Nov. 3 B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Dr. Carin Bondar alleged Barry Neufeld called her a "striptease artist" in comments made Sept. 6 on a public Zoom meeting called Empower Hour. That's a program hosted by Action4Canada, an organization that the claim said promotes Canada's Judeo-Christian heritage.

"The defamatory statement is false," the claim said. "Dr. Bondar is not a strip-tease artist. She is a science communicator who uses pop culture and other forms of creative expression to encourage science literacy."

In a new court application, Neufeld said that Bondar's YouTube performances are" vulgar, pornographic, degrading to women, a bad example to children, immoral and inappropriate for public officials, especially school board trustees."

And he believes knowledge of such conduct is in the public interest and that his characterization of it is factually correct or a reasonably grounded personal impression.

"Any public comments made by the defendant (Neufeld) reflect his personal impression and would be understood by the general public in the nature of editorial comment rather than an assertion of fact," the application said.

So, Neufeld applied to have the case dismissed under the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA).

A Canadian Bar Association column describes the B.C. law as one that "targets litigation aimed at silencing debate on issues of public interest — i.e., strategic litigation against public participation or 'SLAPP' lawsuits."

SLAPP means "strategic litigation against public participation."

"The PPPA may provide legal protection to individuals who have had proceedings commenced against them for expressing themselves on matters of public interest," the CBA article said.

"Litigation intended to punish and silence critics in the public arena is the very mischief the PPPA seeks to prevent," said Neufeld's application, which is set to be heard in court Feb. 6-7.

The elections

While Bondar, a University of the Fraser Valley instructor, was re-elected to the board in local elections on Oct. 15, Neufeld was not. She received the most votes of candidates while he finished 12th out of 15.

He was a trustee from 1992-2008 and from 2011-2022.

"During Mr. Neufeld's presentation, while discussing his preference of candidates for the upcoming Chilliwack school board trustee election, Mr. Neufeld referred to a fellow candidate as a "strip-tease artist," stating: "Richard Procee ran against that strip-tease artist in the by-election four years ago,'" the claim said.

Bondar ran against Procee in the 2021 by-election for Chilliwack school board trustee.

Neufeld's application to dismiss the case filed by lawyer Paul Jaffe noted he attracted "considerable controversy" for his criticism of the Sexual Identification and Gender Ideology (SOGI 1-2-3) program.

"It has potential for serious adverse implications for children and should not be promoted in public schools," the application said.

The application said Neufeld faced "a hostile backlash from certain transgender activists, public sector unions and a number [of] politicians." 

Further, it asserted, Bondar is a "passionate defender of SOGI 1-2-3 and a vociferous critic of the defendant since she entered the public arena."

The application said there was no mention of Bondar's name, and the "striptease artist" reference was only made in passing in the context of another subject. Further, it said, there had already been community controversy about "the plaintiff's highly sexualized performances on YouTube."

Bondar's claim and YouTube

Bondar's claim said she is not and has never been a strip-tease artist.

The claim said that, in one of her many educational YouTube videos, Bondar appears scantily clad.

"The video is a parody of a music video by pop singer Miley Cyrus, in which Cyrus is scantily clad. In Dr. Bondar's video, she sings a song about the science of evolution and the importance of relying on scientific evidence to understand the natural world. Dr. Bondar recreated many aspects of the video in her parody. The video is not a strip-tease video," the claim said.

The suit alleges that when Bondar ran for and was first elected as a school trustee, the video was used against her to malign her character and integrity based on how she dressed in a music video.

"Dr. Bondar has been the target of a persistent attack on the basis of her perceived inappropriate behaviour as a woman," the claim said. "One of the people who used the 2014 parody music video to malign Dr. Bondar's character and integrity in 2021 was Mr. Neufeld. Mr. Neufeld's statement on September 21, 2022, is only the most recent instance of such statements about Dr. Bondar."

The claim said Neufeld's use of the term "strip-tease artist" had a defamatory meaning.

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