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'Awful, disturbing, troubling': Educators condemn Chilliwack trustee's transphobic COVID-conspiracy post

Last Updated May 10, 2020 at 4:16 pm PDT

FILE: A empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on September 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Barry Neufeld has a history of coming under fire for his remarks

Educators say undermining public health officials, spreading transphobia is particularly troubling amid COVID-19

CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) — A social media post by a Chilliwack school trustee that weaponizes transphobia to question the legitimacy of the World Health Organization and Canada’s top doctor is being condemned by educators.

Barry Neufeld has a history of coming under fire for his remarks.

A human rights complaint was filed against him for anti-LGBTQ comments, and he has been harshly criticized and asked to resign by fellow trustees due to his opposition to SOGI 123, a resource for teachers with LGBTQ students who are struggling.

The post implies the WHO can not be trusted to relay accurate information about the coronavirus because it supports gender affirmative healthcare and access to abortion.

Neufeld also suggests –citing Wikipedia as a source– that Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theres Tam is transgender and that if so, her gender identity makes her less credible.

The current president of the BC Teacher’s Federation says these remarks, which stoke discrimination and call science into question, are doubly troubling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s particularly undermining of the efforts of the entire system which is wrapped around keeping our children safe, especially now. It is even more disturbing that the choice was made to make these comments at this particular point in time where we know a lot of our families are self-isolating, that we have students who are particularly vulnerable during these times and often times these are our LGBTQ children,” says Teri Mooring.

Mooring says these comments undermine the safety of LGBTQ students and staff, and are unacceptable coming from an elected official who has a duty to ensure welcoming, inclusive schools.

“This is not someone who is a private citizen. This is an elected official, elected to do a certain job including keeping people safe,” Mooring says.

“It’s hard to imagine the motivation around making these comments at this particular time.”

Former BCTF President Glen Hansman also took to Twitter to condemn the post.

The Chair of the Chilliwack schoolboard said the attempt to undermine a public health official by making claims about Dr. Tam’s gender identity was especially egregious.

“He basically says if she is trans she can not be trusted. He associates trans people with being liars, that sentiment particularly is pretty awful,” says Dan Coulter.

Schools in the district are trying to reinforce direction from officials on social distancing for students and staff, according to Coulter.

“And then we have an educational leader in our district who is doing everything against that, which is troubling.”

He notes the social media post echoes comments made in the past.

“He obviously holds these views and is passionate about them because he has never stopped making them and I’m not sure that he ever will,” Coulter says.

“I wholly disavow and distance myself as far as I can from Barry Neufeld’s comments. I think they’re horrible, I wish he would stop making them and it’s very damaging to our education system.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to Barry Neufeld for comment.