A Chilliwack school board member who alleges former trustee Barry Neufeld called her a “striptease artist” is suing him for defamation.
In a Nov. 3 B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Carin Bondar alleges Neufeld made the comments Sept. 6 on a public Zoom meeting called Empower Hour. It's a program hosted by Action4Canada, an organization that the claim said promotes Canada’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
“The defamatory statement is false,” the claim said. “Dr. Bondar is not a striptease artist. She is a science communicator who uses pop culture and other forms of creative expression to encourage science literacy.”
Neufeld told Glacier Media he had not seen the claim and referred questions to his lawyer, Paul Jaffe.
Jaffe said his client will fight the suit on the grounds of truth given now-removed YouTube videos and Neufeld's right to speak about public issues of interest in a public arena.
Jaffe said Bondar turned Neufeld into a political asset for herself. "She did extremely well by feigning outrage," he told Glacier Media.
While Bondar, a University of the Fraser Valley instructor, was re-elected to the board in local elections Oct. 15, Neufeld was not. She received the most votes while he finished 12th out of 15 candidates.
"During Mr. Neufeld’s presentation, while discussing his preference of candidates for the upcoming Chilliwack school board trustee election, Mr. Neufeld referred to a fellow candidate as a 'striptease artist,' stating: 'Richard Procee ran against that striptease artist in the by-election four years ago,'" the claim said.
The claim said Bondar is not and has never been a striptease artist.
In one of her many educational YouTube videos, Bondar appears scantily clad, the claim said. (She runs a YouTube channel promoting science literacy through informative and engaging video content, the claim said.)
“The video is a parody of a music video by pop singer Miley Cyrus, in which Cyrus is scantily clad. In Dr. Bondar’s video, she sings a song about the science of evolution and the importance of relying on scientific evidence to understand the natural world. Dr. Bondar recreated many aspects of the video in her parody," the court documents said.
The suit alleges that when Bondar ran for and was first elected as a school trustee, the video was used against her to malign her character and integrity on the basis of how she dressed in a music video.
“Dr. Bondar has been the target of a persistent attack on the basis of her perceived inappropriate behaviour as a woman,” the claim said. "One of the people who used the 2014 parody music video to malign Dr. Bondar’s character and integrity in 2021 was Mr. Neufeld. Mr. Neufeld’s statement on Sept. 21, 2022 is only the most recent instance of such statements about Dr. Bondar.”
The claim said Neufeld’s use of term “striptease artist” had a defamatory meaning. Bondar's claim said there is nothing wrong with striptease artistry.
“Unfortunately, there is a widely held societal view that striptease artistry is dishonourable or shameful, and particularly that it is inappropriate of a candidate for public office and a school trustee,” the claim said. “There is also a widely held societal view, which the defamatory statement engages, that women should not behave in a sexually liberated manner in public.”
The claim further alleged "the defamatory statement was made with actual malice" with the goal of "impugning Dr. Bondar's integrity in the eyes of Chilliwack voters."
Jaffe asked why Bondar would see the term as defamatory. He said it suggests to him that Bondar sees people in that profession "as somehow morally inferior or worthy of disrepute."
Jaffe said the audience for Empower Hour on which Neufeld allegedly made the comments "is a small audience of people who support his cause."
"It's frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of process," Jaffe characterized the claim.
The biology faculty member’s work has appeared on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Netflix and the Science Channel, according to court documents.