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LGBTQ+ groups disgusted after Chilliwack MP issues hero award to controversial school trustee

Last Updated Nov 16, 2020 at 1:25 pm PST

FILE - The Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld. (Photo courtesy Barry Neufeld, via Facebook)

A Conservative MP is being called out for giving a controversial school trustee a community hero award

MP Mark Strahl gave Barry Neufeld a community hero award despite transphobic rhetoric, controversial views

LGBTQ+ activists have called the move to give Neufeld a community hero award a slap in the face

CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) – The LGBTQ+ community is calling a recent community hero award given to a school trustee with a history marked by controversy bizarre and insulting.

Earlier this year, Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld was censured and banned from being invited to school events.

He was condemned by educators for implying in a Facebook post that the World Health Organization cannot be trusted to relay accurate information about the coronavirus because it supports gender affirmative healthcare and access to abortion. Neufeld also suggested — citing Wikipedia as a source — that Dr. Theresa Tam was transgender and that, if so, her gender identity makes her less credible.

However, Conservative MP Mark Strahl’s office has still seen it fit to give Neufeld a community hero award for his work on COVID-19.

“It definitely emboldens him. I feel like it gives him the power that he wants in terms of to spread these sort of hateful ideas or thoughts,” Chilliwack Pride director Elizabeth Beacom tells NEWS 1130.

The award, which appears to have been given to anyone who was nominated, reads, “For going above and beyond to make our community a better place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the people who make our community their home.”

The award is signed by Strahl and also includes his seal.

“There’s a lot of good people that I know within the community that have also received the award and it really, sort of, diminishes the value of that award to see somebody like that be given the award in addition to the others that have done really good work through this pandemic,” Beacom adds.

‘I did not endorse nor oppose any nominations’

In an email to NEWS 1130, Strahl explains he started the awards because the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for the community and it gave people the opportunity “to nominate those who went above and beyond to help and care for others.”

More than 100 people, businesses, and not-for-profits were nominated by the community.

“I did not endorse nor oppose any nominations that were received from the community. I did not make any nominations myself,” Strahl says. “Everyone who was nominated received an award, including two local school trustees: Barry Neufeld and Willow Reichelt.

“These awards in no way serve to endorse any recipient’s personal views, including those of Mr. Neufeld,” he adds.

In a statement to NEWS 1130, Erin O’Toole’s office says the federal Conservative leader “is a champion of the rights of all Canadians, including the LGBTQ community.”

“He has been clear that all Canadians are an important part of our nation and have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada. As we work to overcome COVID-19, Conservatives continue to follow public health advice,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, Colin McKenna with PFLAG, a group that offers support to the LGBTQ+ community, calls Neufeld being given the award a slap in the face.

“This is yet another insult to the community and it’s continuous. It doesn’t change. But the electorate is changing. The people voting are changing, and I think that’s something that perhaps finally might get [the Conservatives’] attention, if nothing else,” McKenna says.