Supreme Court of Canada dismisses defamation suit by former Chilliwack school board trustee

THE Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in Hansman v Neufeld on Friday restores a BC Supreme Court decision dismissing a defamation suit by former Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld against former BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) President Glen Hansman.

The decision is the first from Canada’s highest court to consider British Columbia’s anti-SLAPP legislation, the Protection of Public Participation Act.It is also the first to describe the discrimination faced by transgender individuals in Canada.

The ruling affirms the public interest of counter-speech, which involves countering ignorant or harmful statements with responses “motivated by a desire to promote tolerance and respect for a marginalized group in society.” The court recognized that while counter-speech is not necessarily a complete solution to harmful expression, it plays an important role in a healthy society and is aligned with Charter values.

Hansman said in a statement: “I hope this decision makes things easier for anyone speaking in defense of a marginalized community, particularly those speaking in defense of 2SLGBTQ youth and trans people generally, without having to be fearful of retaliatory legal action.”

BCTF President Clint Johnston said: “Today’s ruling is a clear win for anyone who has faced legal action that aims to intimidate or silence legitimate public criticism.”

He added: “It is also an affirmation of the importance of standing up for vulnerable communities and marginalized individuals. I want everyone in British Columbia’s education community, particularly LGBTQ2S+ teachers, students, and families, to know that the BCTF will always stand up for your safety and inclusion in our schools.”