B.C.’s Minister of Education is calling for Barry Neufeld’s immediate resignation as the Chilliwack School Board looks into a Jan. 12 incident in which the controversial trustee was seen lighting a cigarette and taking a sip from a wine glass during a Zoom meeting.
The behaviour was captured on video at a public school board meeting this week immediately following an in-camera meeting in which the school board voted in favour of asking him to resign over a social media post he made last fall.
After vice-chair Jared Mumford made a statement on Tuesday’s in-camera decision, the regular public meeting began and less than five minutes in, Neufeld got up and walked away from his computer.
When he returned 30 seconds later, he lit a cigarette and took a drink from a wine glass before his camera cut out.
Minutes after his video feed came back, his head dropped and he appeared to fall asleep while other trustees asked questions about a presentation by Sardis Secondary staff on renaming their field after B.C. Lions standout Rick Klassen.
On Thursday, school board chair Willow Reichelt told Global News that trustees are expected to display appropriate and professional behaviour at all times including Zoom calls, and that the matter will be dealt with internally.
Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said this latest incident is a continuation of the “appalling conduct” that led to her appointing special advisors last month to evaluate how the school board is being run.
The ministry started reviewing its options to remove Neufeld after a Nov. 19 Facebook post in which he called three staff members of the Chilliwack Progress newspaper the “R-word,” a slur used against people with intellectual disabilities.
Neufeld later amended the Facebook post to replace the slur with the word “radicals,” before deleting the post completely.
In a statement, Whiteside told Global News the special advisors are working quickly to ensure students and staff feel safe and included, and that their report is due Feb. 26.
In the meantime, “Mr. Neufeld should resign immediately, so the board can move forward to put inclusivity and student wellness front and centre in their work,” she said.
Members of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association passed a motion calling for his resignation following the “R-word” post.
An online petition calling for Neufeld to be removed from office has garnered more than 12,000 signatures.
Long a controversial figure, he has also made headlines for his comments on gender identity, transgender people and the SOGI 123 education resource on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Neufeld could not be reached for comment Thursday.
– With files from Richard Zussman