Controversial Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak booted from Conservative caucus
|Toronto Star 05 Jan 2018 at 06:21|
Controversial Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak has been removed from all Senate committees following remarks about First Nations which have been widely condemned. (Supplied photo)
Thu., Jan. 4, 2018
OTTAWA—After months of controversy and condemnation over her statements on residential schools, Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak was kicked out of the party’s caucus late Thursday night.
Sen. Larry Smith, chief Conservative in the Red Chamber, said in a statement that the move came after consultation with party leader Andrew Scheer.
“We have concluded that Senator Beyak will no longer be a member of our Senate Caucus and, consequently, the National Conservative Party of Canada Caucus,” the statement said.
“As an internal Party issue, I consider (the) matter closed and will have no further comment.”
In his own statement, Scheer said the decision came down to Beyak’s refusal to take down letters of support for her comments on residential schools that she posted on her personal senate website in recent months.
Scheer cited one letter in particular, which said: “‘I’m no anthropologist but it seems every opportunistic culture, subsistence hunter/gatherers seeks to get what they can for no effort. There is always a clash between industrial/organized farming culture that values effort as opposed to a culture that will sit and wait until the government gives them stuff’.”
Scheer said: “To suggest that indigenous Canadians are lazy compared to other Canadians, is simply racist... Racism will not be tolerated in the Conservative Caucus or Conservative Party of Canada.”
Calls for Beyak’s resignation as a senator and removal from the Conservative caucus have been heard on Parliament Hill since March, when she made a speech during a debate about Indigenous women in prison. The speech included references to Canada’s residential schools, a network of institutions for Indigenous children that existed across the country for more than a century and have been condemned by the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a tool of “cultural genocide.”
In her speech, Beyak spoke of the “kindly and well-intentioned men and women... whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.”
“Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good,” Beyak said.
She was quickly condemned by MPs of all stripes, including the then-Indigenous Affairs Minister and the NDP’s Romeo Saganash, who is Cree from Quebec and attended a residential school himself as a child. “It’s like saying, ‘Well, there are some good sides to what Hitler did to the Jewish community’,” he said at the time.
Beyak was soon removed from her post on the senate’s Indigenous affairs committee.
Controversy continued this week, however, when media reports highlighted letters of support that she posted on her website, purportedly to show that other Canadians share her views on residential schools.
Many of the letters are general expressions of support, while others blame the media and politicians for ignoring the supposed truth of Beyak’s statements. Some have also been singled out for blanket statements regarding Indigenous peoples in Canada.
At least 150,000 First Nation, Métis and Inuit youth went through the residential schools and an unknown number — estimated to be in the thousands — died.