A controversial Chilliwack school trustee is once again under fire – garnering condemnation by provincial politicians and the public – after using an ableist slur aimed at three Black Press Media employees.
The offensive word was used in a public Facebook post Thursday (Nov. 19) targeting a Chilliwack Progress reporter, the editor and the publisher.
Neufeld’s post was soon changed to no longer include the R-word before being deleted – but not before being screen-grabbed by many, including advocates for disabled people.
The social media post comes just a few days after Neufeld was given a community hero award by Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl for “going above and beyond to make our community a better place during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since the comment was posted, an online petition started by a Chilliwack resident has quickly picked up steam. As of Friday at 2 p.m., 1,619 people had signed the petition, titled “REMOVE BARRY NEUFELD.”
This isn’t the first time Neufeld has attracted criticism.
Neufeld has long stood against the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program in B.C. schools, with calls for his resignation after making anti-trans comments in 2018. That same year, the BC Teachers’ Federation filed a human rights complaint against him, alleging his comments were creating an unsafe work environment.
This year, the school board censured Neufeld after he made social media posts questioning the gender identity of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top doctor.
In a series of tweets on Friday, Nov. 20, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming called for Neufeld to resign from his position as school trustee.
“In addition to targeting the LGBTQ community, and peddling conspiracy theories about Dr. Tam and COVID-19, he is now targeting ableist slurs at individuals,” Fleming said.
“It’s time for him to step down.”
I'm also calling on the @bcliberals to denounce Barry Neufeld and his harmful comments to people with disabilities.
— Rob Fleming (@Rob_Fleming) November 20, 2020
In a separate statement, the Chilliwack Teachers Association voiced their support for the local newspaper while condemning Neufeld’s actions.
“They are dedicated and professional journalists who are not afraid to stand up for decency and fairness and to speak out against bigotry and narrow-mindedness,” the statement reads.
“The Chilliwack Progress is the oldest and one of the most successful community papers in B.C., and part of that success comes from the courage not to shy away from controversy.”
The association added that hurtful slurs have no place in schools.
In a statement on behalf of Black Press Media, editorial director Andrew Holota said, “We’re aware of the social media posts that followed a story by reporter Jessica Peters in the Nov. 5 Chilliwack Progress in regard to the Chilliwack school board.
“The public has a right to be informed about the decisions and actions of elected government representatives. We stand behind the Nov. 5 story, which accurately portrays the ongoing divisiveness within the Chilliwack school board, and the conduct and behaviour which has manifested between trustees. Mr. Neufeld’s factually inaccurate Nov. 19 Facebook post is a reflection of that discord, and it is now the focus of appropriate public attention and response. The Progress will continue to provide factual and impartial editorial coverage of this and other important community issues.”
Black Press Media has reached out to Neufeld for comment.
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