A fundraising rally was held for Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld Thursday night, but he was a no-show.
The event, held at Evergreen Hall, was hosted by the Langley group Culture Guard and its founder Kari Simpson. A projector stated it was a “Thank You Rally for Barry Neufeld and the State of our Nation,” and envelopes left on the chairs had an option to donate to “Barry Neufeld’s legal fund.” However, as the night carried on it became clear the man of the hour would not make an appearance.
Two slightly different reasons were given for his absence.
Jenn Smith, a friend of Neufeld’s and a transgender writer and public speaker, said Neufeld’s absence was on the advice of his lawyer.
“Barry actually couldn’t be here tonight on the advice of his lawyers because he is involved in two legal cases and because he’s been defamed too much,” Smith stated. He also stated “Barry is a hero.”
Neufeld is involved in two Human Rights Tribunal complaints, and has announced he is taking legal action against Glen Hansman, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation for defamation. He also recently announced in a board meeting that he is taking legal action against his own school board. All four cases stem from his statements made in 2017 regarding SOGI 123, and the board’s and Hansman’s ensuing response to his statements.
After Smith spoke, the emcee of the event read a letter from Neufeld apologizing for his absence. That letter stated that Neufeld was actually afraid for his safety and unable to find a chaperone to go with him, despite needing the support for his legal fund.
“My fundraising for my defamation case is floundering and I could really use some positive media coverage at this time,” the letter said in part.
“But I do not feel I should be attending this evening… I feel very concerned about my physical safety as there is an ex-military man who has threatened myself and Mrs. (Heather) Maahs. I am subject to death threats… This man in particular has been the nastiest of my critics, a personal buddy of Justin Trudeau, as well.”
He said the man has been attending meetings and giving both him and Trustee Maahs “intimidating” looks.
“The RCMP are aware of this and have done nothing.”
The event did have security guards, and two RCMP officers were stationed there throughout the event. The only interaction the officers had with protesters was when Simpson tried to have a woman removed for holding a sign in her seat. The sign was made of pink and blue stripes and said: “Hate is a choice, being trans is not.” One officer spoke to the woman, and she and her sign were permitted to stay.
This is the second time Culture Guard has come to Chilliwack to honour Neufeld. One speaker mentioned Neufeld’s “scrappy leadership.” Like the last rally, this one drew a crowd of peaceful, colourful protesters, donned in rainbow colours and holding signs. The group included teachers, parents, and several candidates from the 2018 school board election.
Thursday evening was also a night for the Chilliwack trustees to spend with local CUPE members for a formal meeting and dinner, but Neufeld was absent. Trustee Darrell Furgason also missed the dinner, as he is out of the country.