While a single apology for an offensive social media post shared by a Chilliwack education board member last week has been issued, many feel the act is not good enough.
As reported by Rebel News, School District 33 trustee Teri Westerby, who identifies as the district's "first openly trans man" elected to the board, posted a meme depicting a group of characters driving a rainbow-coloured steamroller, labelled as "Barbie," running over another group with the labels "traditional family," "sanctity of marriage," and "Christian values" written over the characters.
After many members of the public denounced the trustee's post as hateful, discriminatory and promoting violence against Christians, the board's chair Willow Reichelt, who originally responded to the post with a laughing emoji, went on the defence for Westerby with the following statement on Facebook:
The Chilliwack School District embraces families of all religious faiths (and no faith) and recognizes that different families have different values. We strive to create learning spaces where people of all different backgrounds can come together and treat each other with respect.
Last week, Trustee Westerby shared a meme on his personal Facebook page that was intended to poke fun at online commentators who are upset that the Barbie movie has a feminist message. I know Trustee Westerby well, and he is one of the kindest people I have ever met; therefore, I know that he would never advocate violence or discrimination against anyone.
I also know the history of the meme in question, so I know that it is not intended to advocate crushing traditional values but to point out the absurdity of saying that the Barbie movie has that power.
However, if you do not know the meme’s history and have not been following the discussion of the Barbie movie online, it’s understandable that seeing the image with no context could be hurtful.
I apologize on behalf of the board for any hurt caused, and I want to offer my assurance that Christians and other people of faith are welcome and supported in this district.
For some, Reichelt's 'Christians got it wrong; it was just a joke about conservatives' apology didn't sit well.
"Regardless of your personal opinion, 'poking fun' is not harmless. If this were the other way around and it was a meme of faith steamrolling the LGBT movement you most definitely would not be making light of the situation and it is your duty to address it appropriately and take it seriously," a BC woman who replied to Reichelt's apology on Facebook stated.
Another woman, who is a mother of three school-aged children in Chilliwack, called Reichelt's apology confusing and a form of backpedaling.
In a statement to Rebel News, the mother, who has requested to remain anonymous, says she's spent a lot of time advocating for her middle child with extremely high needs to have an "inclusive and exceptional experience in school."
While grateful for the district's education assistants and support staff, whom she considers to be amazing at their jobs, the mom feels the district's board of education is a hypocritical disgrace.
"After all the years I have spent advocating for my child, trustee Westerby (and Reichelt) certainly should not be in any position to lecture us about 'inclusion' after what I have seen. Very unprofessional," said the mother, who added that she believes the district's superintendent, Rohan Arul-pragasam, should step down.
The two ladies are far from the only ones to find hypocrisy in Reichelt's apology and Westerby's lack thereof.
Just days prior to posting the discriminatory meme, Westerby posted a long Facebook rant condemning a private business that sells books the trustee dislikes, such as ones about the Freedom Convoy or detransitioners.
In the post, Westerby admits to complaining in person and failing to shame an employee into removing some of the books the trustee deems as "far-right propaganda" and "transphobic" from a "staff picks" display at Totally BOOK-ish, a new bookstore in Mission.
"I expressed that I did not feel safe in this store, and she stated that was my choice, as though having bigoted and deliberately misleading books for sale was more important for the store than retaining their LGBTQ customers,” Westerby added, before mocking the small business's owners for publicly defending their mandate to provide books with diverse ideas by summarizing their stock as “anti-vaxx, anti-trans, pro-convoy, white supremacy kind of stuff."
Reichelt and Westerby ran for their positions in the last election on a "read banned books" platform. This platform countered candidates who opposed the province's SOGI 1-2-3 curriculum, which allows sexually explicit books to be used as learning resources. Reichelt also showed her support for Westerby's book-shaming post on Facebook, using an emoji.
Among the candidates who opposed such books for kids in the last municipal election was Barry Neufeld, a former SD33 school trustee. In a statement to Rebel News, Neufeld expresses no surprise at Westerby's tweet or chair Reichelt's eagerness to deflect accountability by apologizing for the trustee.
"Teri accepts the woke ideology as his gospel truth and cannot anticipate that it might be objectionable to those with a more sensible worldview," Neufeld asserts. The former trustee further speculated that Westerby may have been advised by the board's chair no to issue a personal apology.
Despite reaching out, Reichelt did not respond to provide Rebel News with further details over this matter. She has, however, continued to do damage control on social media by responding to some of the people who are still dissatisfied with Westerby's now-deleted post and her own lackluster apology.
A popular theme in the chair's responses to the concerned replies has been to deny the meme promotes violence against Christians, to claim no further action is needed outside of her apology and to let any Chilliwack resident who has issue with the post or trustees know they can take it up at the voting booth during the next election in 2026.
Board trustee Heather Maas, the only member of the controversial board to respond to an inquiry for this report, says on behalf of Chilliwack's community, she remains "concerned that sentiments such as steamrolling, destroying those with traditional, Christian/religious values are considered humourous by a school trustee, who instead is obliged to take inclusivity seriously."
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