Nova Scotia

Speaker feels 'used and exploited' after not being paid for Halifax WE Day talk

Tyler Simmonds, a mental health advocate and professional speaker from North Preston, N.S., who wasn't paid for his speech at a 2017 Halifax WE Day event said he feels "used and exploited" after he learned that members of the Trudeau family were paid to speak at their events.

Tyler Simmonds was told the charity doesn't pay its speakers, but that has turned out not to be true

Tyler Simmonds. a filmmaker, mental health advocate and professional speaker from North Preston, N.S., was asked to speak at a WE Charity event for free in 2017, which he did. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

A mental health advocate and professional speaker from North Preston, N.S., who wasn't paid for his speech at a 2017 Halifax WE Day event said he feels "used and exploited" after he learned that members of the Trudeau family were paid to speak at their events.

"I was really surprised," Tyler Simmonds told CBC Nova Scotia News At Six on Wednesday.

"I'm a firm believer that if you're sharing your experiences to so many people like that, you deserve to be compensated for it because you're of value and you should be shown in some way that you're of value."

Simmonds said when he was asked to speak about mental health and well-being at the event, he jumped at the opportunity. But when it came time to discuss compensation, the charity told him that they didn't pay their speakers.

He said that seemed odd to him, but he didn't question it because he had only been public speaking for a few years.

Simmonds speaking about mental health and well-being at a WE Day event in Halifax in 2017. (YouTube)

"Back then, just being a kid from North Preston and dealing with depression and anxiety, I was thinking, 'Oh, it's not my place to tell them that they shouldn't be doing it this way,'" he said.

WE Charity has been at the centre of a political scandal after the Government of Canada awarded the charity with a contract to administer a proposed $900-million student grant program and it was revealed the Trudeau family has a close relationship with the organization.

Initially, WE Charity said members of the Trudeau family were not paid for appearing at WE events, but on July 9 it was revealed that both Trudeau's mother, Margaret, and his brother, Alexandre, were paid to speak at multiple events. Margaret was paid about $250,000 for speaking at 28 events and Alexandre was paid about $32,000 for speaking at eight events.

Elizabeth Chiu interviewed Tyler Simmonds on CBC Nova Scotia News At Six on Wednesday. Simmonds, a mental health advocate and professional speaker from North Preston, N.S., said he feels "used and exploited" after speaking at a WE Charity event for free — and later learning that members of the Trudeau family had been paid thousands. 5:36

Simmonds said he wasn't surprised by this revelation, but he was disappointed.

"It seems that they were getting paid and receiving special treatment when there are other people who are speaking and having a huge impact in communities and influencing many people who aren't rich, who aren't a Trudeau, who do have a lot of impact in Canada, but they haven't even received payment," he said.

Simmonds said he feels taken advantage of and it has affected his mental health.

"It made me feel used. It's this gross feeling of feeling used and exploited," he said.

WE Day co-founders Craig, left, and Marc Kielburger, right, introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, at the WE Day celebrations in Ottawa, on Nov. 10, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

He said he hasn't spoken to any representatives of the WE Charity, but he did send them an invoice Wednesday.

"I'm not sure what that's going to do, but it felt good for me to do that," he said. "I want people to know that you shouldn't let anyone just use you and if you feel used, it's valid."

In an emailed statement to CBC News, WE Charity said "we address speaker honorariums on a case-by-case basis, largely depending on the nature of their commitment. In all cases, speakers are compensated for their travel expenses."

With files from Elizabeth Chiu

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