Canadian Anti-Hate Network
The upcoming municipal elections in British Columbia are shaping up to be the latest battle in the culture war. Multiple regions are seeing candidates with positions aligned with far-right ideas getting their names on the ballot for the role of school board trustee.
Chilliwack, BC is no exception.
Residents head to the polls on October 15.
In Chilliwack, 15 people are running for one of seven seats at the table. Local school trustees make up boards of education in British Columbia. According to the province, they represent a unique form of democratic governance.
“Unlike municipal councils, provincial legislative assemblies and the federal parliament, boards of education have one primary mandate: improving learning for all students.”
The general prerequisites required to run as a school trustee are to be 18, a Canadian citizen, a resident of BC for at least six months, and not to be disqualified under the School Act or any other enactment from being nominated for, elected to or holding office as trustee.
With the list of candidates locked in, we took a look at those with platforms and public statements that are consistent with far-right ideas, such as being anti-abortion or against education about 2SLGBTQ+ identities.
Barry Neufeld is an incumbent trustee for Chilliwack’s school board. A trustee in the district since the early 1990s, he has become a controversial figure for, among other things, his stance on education relating to 2SLGBTQ+ identities and sexual health in schools.
He has been an outspoken advocate against the province's sexual orientations and gender identities education program (SOGI 123). Last week, Neufeld appeared on the weekly live stream of the conspiratorial, Christian nationalist organization Action 4 Canada to detail his fight against sexual health education and programs that support affirmative care for trans people.
“The sexualization in schools has all the signs of a religious cult. And the purpose is to turn kids against their parents,” he told A4C founder Tanya Gaw. “Even if the kid is not persuaded to come out as gay or transgender, they turn against their parents because they think that their parents are old-fashioned and out of touch.
“By turning this generation against their parents they have an army of revolutionaries that can bring in this soft cultural marxism and completely change society. They want to get rid of all old institutions. All courts, police, churches, school. Everything is going to be different. And to do that they have to turn the kids against their parents.”
After presenting a slideshow detailing the ups and downs of his career as a trustee, Neufeld took questions from Gaw before the floor was opened up to viewers for a Q&A.
Here, he talked about his fears for the future and a system he feels is stoking anti-white hatred.
“Well, you know what, those old people are going to wind up in an old folk home pretty soon. They’re going to be looked after by some of these graduates that have been taught to hate cisgender white Christian people. And you can be darn sure they’re not going to get very good care.“
Far from his only controversy, Neufeld has faced a number of punishments while sitting on Chilliwack’s school board, including calls for him to step down. He has faced accusations from fellow board members of sending harassing messages, using his trustee report time to insult other trustees, and was banned from attending in-camera board meetings and entering schools.
A report from Press Progress pointed out Neufeld’s social media history of sharing a number of bizarre and conspiratorial articles, including one that relied heavily on the inaccurate Khazar theory to lay blame for numerous wars at the feet of Jewish people.
BC education minister Rob Fleming went as far as to say, the “toxic environment created around the board table renders that board really dysfunctional,” according to the CBC, and, at the time, would not rule out recalling the entire board to be rid of him.
Neufeld also filed a lawsuit against former BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman for saying that he had "tiptoed quite far into hate speech" and was creating a school environment "that is discriminatory and hateful."
Despite being struck down by a lower court, Neufeld won an appeal and will now appear in front of the Canadian Supreme Court in October. While in Ottawa, Neufeld said he expected to see school board candidates Shannon Boschy and Chanel Pfahl – both also running on divisive anti-trans platforms – as well as anti-trans activist "Billboard" Chris Elston.
When asked for comment, Neufeld replied that “The actions of the current school board are nothing but discriminatory. They have tried every trick in the book to get me to quit and shut up, but I refuse to be silenced.”
Adding that he will continue to do his job and ask “tough questions,” Neufeld says he has been “an advocate for vulnerable special needs students for over 30 years. The root of these accusations is to undo the work I have accomplished by trying to discredit me.”
Also an incumbent trustee, Maahs was elected to the Chilliwack Board of Education in 2008. Echoing a similar line to Neufeld, Maahs has previously accused doctors talking about medical transition for trans and gender diverse persons as guilty of “malpractice.”
She has also used her social media to promote Matt Walsh, a filmmaker and anti-trans polemic. He, along with Tucker Carlson, Chaya Raichik of “Libs of TikTok,” and Elston, recently have been heavily criticized for their coverage of a Boston Children’s Hospital and its treatment of transgender children. The hospital has since become a target of harassment and threats.
“Reality check. XX chromosomes,” Maahs wrote in an anti-SOGI Facebook group, responding to an article about a trans man who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “You are a woman. The truth shall set you free.”
During the Ottawa blockade protests in February, Maahs stated her support for the “truckers,” despite the widely reported fact that many of the organizers and participants of the action had previously existing connections to far-right politics.
Other posts show her promoting Chilliwack’s iteration of the anti-abortion “Walk For Life.”
Another incumbent from the existing board, Darrell Furgason reportedly came in sixth in the last election for the seven trustee positions.
Holding a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney in religious studies, Furgason also runs a Facebook group titled the Director for the Worldview Studies Center (WSC) – a “Christian educational association that helps students develop critical thinking skills to analyze global developments.”
Rather than providing resources for critical thinking, however, the WSC is home to posts defending the “young earth theory” (the belief the world is around 6,000 years old), claims that a non-binding motion against Islamophobia was the implementation of “sharia law” in Canada, and no shortage of warnings about “genderism and transgenderism” being used in schools to indoctrinate children. Other recent posts include claims that biologists say there is no proof of evolution (there is), that human-caused climate change is not real (it is), and a variety of other spurious assertions.
Like many opposed to “gender ideology,” he has made the issue central to his politics. So much so that on a list of goals if re-elected, Furgason places the “Emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being [of children], not the sexualization of children,” as number five out of five.
Previously when reports of his social media activity were reported by Chilliwack media, categorizing his beliefs as islamophobic, transphobic, and creationist, he balked at the assertion.
He claims the article “mis-characterize(s) discussions on my FB pages about important issues such as Islamic politics, LGBTQ activism, and the social and political impact of Trans activism.”
A realtor living in Chilliwack, Elliot Friesen has not made many public statements in regards to his platform, which places a large amount of importance on financial literacy. According to his candidate’s page, he “envisions a school system where kids are free from political interference and political indoctrination.”
“I want to bring the influence back to the family when it comes to school curriculum,” Friesen is quoted saying. “I believe in a strong academic curriculum that is free of [an] ideological agenda, where kids can simply focus on learning, exploring their possibilities, and building lasting relationships with one another, as they look forward to a bright future.”
On his Facebook page, he also posted the statement “Just so we’re clear, I am proud to be conservative, pro-family, and pro-life! And I stand for the rights of every individual.”
Friesen is part of Parents Voice BC, a political organization backing school board candidates in several districts. According to the CBC:
“Many candidates running under the party's banner support political positions inflamed by the pandemic, with rhetoric similar to right-wing groups in the United States — including criticism of public heath policies and school programs about racism, gender and sexuality.
But an in-depth review by CBC of candidates' online material found that instead of promoting their political beliefs, many candidates have tried to obscure them — in some cases by deleting old social media posts.”
He did not respond to a request for comment.
This is the second time Kaethe Jones will be running for the position of school board trustee in Chilliwack. She is both a former teacher and, according to her own biography, a former teacher’s union representative.
After coming in eighth place last election – one seat away from sitting on the board – she alleged “suspicious conduct by election officials and filed an affidavit in Chilliwack provincial court asking for a judicial recount,” according to the Chilliwack Progress. The recount cost between $30,000 and $35,000 and reportedly resulted in Jones gaining one vote, attributed to a missing ballot.
Jones is staunchly pro-life, according to her Facebook. What is more troubling is the expressed belief in a since-deleted post that the medical system is somehow linked to the worship of the deity Baphomet.
She has also shared multiple posts that include explicitly conspiratorial themes. These include a message from Barry Wunch AKA “The Canadian Hammer,” who wrote in a short essay posted to Facebook on August 19, 2022, with the title “The Cabal will Fall.”
“The Cabal will fall. Assuredly I say unto you, I have pulled out all the stops. The world as they have known it has been changed forever. For they will turn to the east and I will be there, they will move in the west but I will stand in their way. From the north to the south I will shred their plans and their empires. For they will be hit with things they know not. For there is no one, there is no regime more powerful than I,” Wunch wrote in one of his “prophetic words.” “Watch as I dismantle every evil and demonic structure by structure one by one. For they have had their day, and it is now coming to an end.”