British Columbia

B.C. town councillor, 22, alleges discrimination from colleagues over age, sexual orientation

During a private meeting in July, Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer alleges a fellow council member inappropriately tried to use his sexual orientation to coerce him to vote for a motion.

Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer says his sexual identity should not be used as a bargaining chip

Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer is taking a leave of absence after he alleged discrimination from his council colleagues based on his sexual orientation and age. (Submitted by Robert Filmer)

A town councillor in Qualicum Beach, B.C., is taking a leave of absence after he says his colleagues on council made inappropriate comments.

At 22 years old, Robert Filmer is the youngest member of council and he came out as gay over the summer. Filmer was elected in 2018 and says there have been rising tensions on the council.

In particular, he says he faced discrimination based on his age and his sexual orientation.

"In public it looks like this council gets along perfectly but when the doors close the tables really turn," said Filmer.

During a private meeting in July, Filmer alleges a fellow council member inappropriately tried to coerce him to vote for a motion.

"They said, 'We supported you when you came out, it's about time you supported us,' " said Filmer.

Robert Filmer, 22, is the youngest member of the Qualicum Beach town council. He came out as gay during the summer. (Submitted by Robert Filmer)

At the time Filmer said he was shocked and called for a point of order to make clear that his sexual identity is not a bargaining chip and should be irrelevant when it comes to debating civic matters. But Filmer says his point of order was overruled and ignored by the mayor.

"That's not a respectful environment," said Filmer. "And that is no longer a safe environment."

'I have no recollection of it,' says mayor

Qualicum Beach Mayor Brian Wiese denies any wrongdoing by anyone on council and says he has no memory of the meeting in question.

"I have no recollection of it, so I guess I can't say it didn't happen. But I most certainly have no recollection of it. I would never allow it to happen," said Wiese.

Filmer says he has also faced more subtle discrimination because of his age. Council meetings used to take place after work hours, but have been moved to the middle of the day forcing Filmer to find a way to maintain his job while also serving on council.

Qualicum Beach Mayor Bryan Wiese said he has 'no recollection' of Filmer being discriminated in the council. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

"These types of situations have fully resulted in a decline in my mental health and in me needing to take a leave," said Filmer.

Following advice from his doctor Filmer has taken a two-month leave of absence in which he says he will consider whether or not he will return to council permanently. In the meantime his temporary departure leaves the five-person council reduced to just three active members because Adam Walker resigned from council earlier this fall after being elected as MLA for Parksville-Qualicum.