Qualicum Beach town councillor faces civil claim for slander

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A Qualicum Beach town councillor has been served a notice of civil claim from the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking relief for damages caused by slander.

Kelland Foods Holdings Ltd made the claim against Coun. Teunis Westbroek because of comments regarding its store that was destroyed by a fire in 2002.

The company recently pursued two development proposals involving town-owned land — both of which were rejected, or left unresolved by council, the notice said. This year, council rejected a proposal at the bus garage location in favour of a competing proposal.

According to the document, during an in-camera council meeting and/or the subsequent open meeting approving the competing proposal, Westbroek argued Kelland Food’s proposal should not be accepted because the former owners, Kenneth Schley and John Briuolo, had “‘burnt down their store’ years earlier and as such the municipality should not enter into the agreement with the company and its principles who had committed arson.”

The document also cites a meeting between Qualicum Beach Mayor Brian Weise, Coun. Scott Harrison and Westbroek at a public place where a discussion took place concerning council’s vote.

“The defendant [Westbroek] spoke and published the following defamatory words attacking the integrity and character of the personal plaintiffs [Schley and Briuolo]: ‘don’t forget these guys burnt down their store.’”

The document points to multiple other occasions where Westbroek made similar comments in the presence of the mayor and senior town staff.

“In their natural and ordinary meaning the words complained of meant and were understood to mean that the personal plaintiff intentionally set the fire that caused the Quality Foods grocery store to be destroyed and as such, committed the criminal offence of arson.” 

It claims the words have caused serious injury to the company and caused loss of profit. Westbroek has 21 days to respond to the civil claim that was dated April 19.

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