BREAKERS: Local donations reach 60 quake-orphaned children – Mayor’s defamation settlement raises questions

February 24, 2023

  • Fundraising for children orphaned by earthquake
  • Mayor’s defamation lawsuit settlement raises questions
  • Silk Painters exhibit premieres at TOSH
  • Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department seeks volunteers
  • Scene around Town — Mother Nature

Fundraising for children orphaned by Turkey-Syrian earthquake

“Our first load of food has arrived!”
Delivered this week, purchased with money donated by local residents in February 2023. Photo courtesy Hesham Alhbiyou

A fundraising drive has been launched to help approximately 60 children in one village who, local families report, were orphaned by the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria. To date, almost 50,000 people are reported to have been killed by the quake.

A fundraiser event was quickly organized at St. Mark’s Church hall in Qualicum Beach last Saturday, February 18, raising over $5,000 in four hours.

Just three days after the earthquake emergency response fundraising event was held, emergency supplies of food and wood began to arrive in northwest Syria to help care for the orphaned children.

The event was spearheaded by Parksville resident Samar Al Hbayo, along with her husband Bader Al Faraj, her brother Hesham Alhbiyou and his wife Nour Alebaid, along with the Ali Al Faraj Refugee Sponsorship group.

A press release issued the organizers reported that “Samar and her family are grateful to all who responded so quickly to help these children.” To date, over $8,000 has been donated, but more is desperately needed for these newly-orphaned children.

Local families who survived the quake are providing care for the orphaned children, even though they themselves are struggling, many now living in tents during freezing weather.

“It is very difficult to get humanitarian aid to Syria now,” said Jennifer Roberts, a member of the sponsorship group, “but the Refugee Sponsorship Group has a long-established, reliable lifeline to get funds directly to the people who need them.”

Donations can be made at St. Mark’s Church office, 138 Hoylake Rd. W (entrance off Memorial) in Qualicum Beach between 9AM and 3PM Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, either cash or a cheque made out to Terry Roberts, Chair of the Ali Al Faraj Refugee Sponsorship Group. The Refugee Sponsorship Group will ensure the funds are sent to the camps via international money transfer.   — LS

Questions about Westbroek legal settlement partially answered

It was reported by PQB News on February 8, 2023 that the defamation claim filed against then-Councillor, now Qualicum Beach Mayor, Teunis Westbroek, had been settled out of court.

The civil claim became news and was widely publicized in 2021, and the B.C. Supreme Court submissions of both parties have been available for public scrutiny, none of which appears to have materially affected the electorate’s choice of mayor in the October 2022 election.

Incomplete news coverage, combined with silence from Town Hall, raised several questions that have been floating around Town.

Is Westbroek personally paying, out of his own pocket, all of the costs payable to the plaintiff’s Ken Schley, John Briuolo and Kelland Foods?

Or, are QB taxpayers paying for some, or maybe all, of the legal costs incurred by Westbroek to defend himself against the defamation claim? What about the $100,000 in damages payable to the plaintiffs? And the $30,000 to compensate the plaintiffs for their legal costs?

If the Town or any other third party footed part or all of the expense, or paid the insurance premiums for liability protection, the public deserves to know that.

We asked Mayor Westbroek twice, in writing, to please answer these questions.

Ten days later we received this written reply: “Since the civil action between myself and Mr. Schley, Mr. Briuolo and Kelland Foods has been settled, I wish to clarify that the total settlement amount of $130,000 was covered by liability insurance and will not be at the expense of the taxpayers of Qualicum Beach.”

Whose liability insurance? His own? Or does the Town provide its Council members with liability protection, perhaps through a Municipal Insurance Association of BC (MIABC) insurance policy. In 2021 the Town reportedly paid MIABC $175,293. That’s taxpayer money. Westbroek also neglected to answer how his own lawyer was paid, which is on top of the $130,000.

Town CAO Lou Varela has since provided the missing information. In a Media Release issued at 4:44 pm today, Feb 24th, the Town explained, as we expected, that MIABC covered all costs, except a $10,000 deductible (taxpayer expense) and a partial contribution of $2,839 paid personally by Mayor Westbroek.

There may be additional taxpayer expense down the road. As an insurer, MIABC reserves the right to increase premiums based on the Town’s claims history, or to actually refuse coverage altogether. While appreciated, ideally the Town Media Release received today should have been issued on or before February 8, 2023. — GS

Vancouver Island Silk Painters exhibit at TOSH Feb 28 – Apr 24

Artwork by Bernice Stearns from the upcoming exhibit at The Old School House (TOSH) Art Centre in Qualicum Beach, B.C.

The Old School House Art Centre has a grand new exhibit event coming up for audiences here in QB.

Silk painters from across Vancouver Island will showcase their exquisite works fashioned using their chosen medium, dye on silk. No other medium offers the versatility of using dye on silk while producing such vibrant colours.

The Vancouver Island Silk Painters’ group currently has members from Campbell River, Comox, Whiskey Creek, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Nanaimo and Sidney.

Three members of the Vancouver Island Silk Painters have been accepted into the Federation of Canadian Artists and two of them achieved AFCA signature status with their silk paintings.

The exhibit’s Online Opening Reception will be held March 8 at 2 pm.

An In Person Opening Reception will be held in the Brown Gallery on March 16 from 2-4 pm. — LS

Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department seeks volunteer firefighters

The Coombs-Hilliers Volunteer Fire Department (CHVFD) is looking for volunteer firefighters to join their team. Volunteer firefighting is a challenging but rewarding opportunity for residents of all backgrounds to work together to provide fire and emergency response support to the community.

“The CHVFD responds to upwards of 300 calls a year, and we rely on volunteer firefighters to ensure the community receives the help they need when they need it most,” said Ron Schildroth, Community Fire Chief, Coombs-Hilliers Volunteer Fire Department.

Volunteer firefighting requires regular training and an on-call commitment but is flexible enough that even those with a full-time career can be part of the volunteer firefighting team.

“I encourage area residents who are interested in learning more about the commitment and the rewards of volunteering to contact us. Some may be surprised to discover that they can achieve their goal of being a volunteer firefighter while still fulfilling the needs of their personal and professional lives.”

Area residents who are interested in learning more can visit the RDN website at or reach out to the fire department at 250-752-2144. Deadline to submit a volunteer firefighter application is April 30, 2023. — Press Release

Scene around Town – Mother Nature

One sad, one happy scene. The latest QB snowfall brought a rare snow-day for local children who took to the light, fluffy stuff with glee. Drivers? Not so much.

While walking along the trail that runs from the village past Kwalikum Secondary School, we noted that a mature, healthy tree had recently been girdled (animal or human?). In contrast, the smiling face carved on a house sign seemed to evoke the joy in the day.

Let’s take care of our planet. We haven’t got another one yet. — LS