Former Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld loses defamation suit

A former Chilliwack school board trustee has been ordered to pay a current trustee $45,000, after Carin Bondar won a defamation suit against Barry Neufeld.

On Thursday, April 11, the Honourable Justice Stephens ordered Neufeld to pay general damages of $35,000 and punitive damages of $10,000.

Bondar sued Neufeld for calling her a “strip tease artist” during an online interview in September 2022.

The interview he took part in came as the pair ran in the election to become school board trustees.

In October 2022, she posted a statement on YouTube stating her intent to start a legal proceeding against Neufeld.

“I am coming to you today with a statement that I really would prefer not to have to make. I am suing Barry Neufeld for defamation of character,” she said.

The judge agreed that the words had the power to harm Bondar’s reputation, saying they “genuinely threatened” it.

In Neufeld’s defence, he testified that he believed he was stating a fact and not defaming her reputation.

“(It) was just a fact as I saw it,” he said.

Neufeld also said Bondar “willingly entered an ideologically charged political arena” where harsh language is valid, and that she was only suing him for collateral purposes.

He also refused to apologize or retract his defamatory comment.

The judge contested that that did not make up a good defence for his case.

“This was an effort to discredit his opponent in a school board trustee election, which crossed the line and constituted defamation,” the judge said.

“He has repeated the impugned words in February 2023 that seeks financial contributions for this and other litigation.”

In her testimony, Bondar hoped for aggravated damages. “The campaign against me by Mr. Neufeld began before that strip-tease comment,” she said, adding it “began as soon as I entered the by-election race.”

The judge says, in this case, Neufeld showed “subjective malice,” which defeats a claim for aggravated damages.

“I accept Mr. Neufeld’s evidence that he did subjectively honestly believe that Dr. Bondar was a ‘strip-tease artist.’ Although he was wrong in that belief, I find that that was his subjective honest belief,” the judge said.

“No aggravated damages award shall be made against Mr. Neufeld.”

Finally, the judge concluded that Neufeld incorrectly characterized Bondar, and did not apologize or retract his words, leading to the decision of general and punitive damages.

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