Why does Lynn Beyak still have a job?

The Conservative senator’s inappropriate comments got her kicked off a Senate committee last spring, but she recently advised Indigenous communities to fix their own problems


 
A picture of Senator Lynn Beyak accompanies other Senators official portraits on a display outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A picture of Senator Lynn Beyak accompanies other Senators official portraits on a display outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Serious question: What’s wrong with Conservative senator Lynn Beyak? After writing an open letter earlier this month doubling down on her claim that residential schools were “well intentioned,” and telling Indigenous people to preserve their culture “with their own dime,” could Beyak please explain to Canadian taxpayers why she should be allowed to continue to spew garbage on ours?

Beyak — a business owner from northern Ontario who ran twice as a candidate for the provincial Progressive Conservatives in the 1990s — wrote this letter after a summer she promised would be spent meeting with Indigenous groups, as a way to address uninformed and offensive statements she made about residential schools earlier this year. But this is the sentiment that emerged from Beyak’s soul-searching: “Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship,” she advised Aboriginal people. Beyak—a senator, remember—had to be told that Aboriginal people born in Canada are citizens, and that having Indian status does not preclude a person from being Canadian.

So, another serious question: Is it possible that Beyak is getting dumber over time? Back in the spring, she criticized the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s inquiry into the residential school system—which seized 150,000 Indigenous children from their families as part of a government campaign of forcible assimilation—as being unfair, because it didn’t “focus on the good.”

“I speak partly for the record,” Beyak said in March, “but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants—perhaps some of us here in this chamber—whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part.”

At the time, Beyak was a member of the senate’s Aboriginal Peoples committee, a position you’d think would require more than a passing knowledge of Indigenous history and culture. At the very least, Beyak could have read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, a serious, deeply researched and exhaustive collection of survivors’ accounts—which did include some positive stories. Not many, of course, because the vast majority of adults who lived through the trauma of these schools reported feelings of isolation, loneliness and a disconnection from their parents and their culture. And in many, many cases they experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Some children were subjected to medical experiments. Others were tortured by an electric chair.

Beyak, who was eventually removed from the committee, blew off her critics—including committee chair Sen. Lillian Dyck and Sen. Murray Sinclair, who served as the chief commissioner of the TRC — with a statement from her office, using language straight out of the Donald Trump playbook: “In this era of fake news and exaggeration, Senator Lynn Beyak is especially grateful to those who have taken the time to do their own research and to deeply and respectfully engage.”

Despite Beyak’s ignorance and misrepresentations of Canada’s history, members of a truth and reconciliation committee in Sioux Lookout, a town in northwestern Ontario, near Beyak’s home in Dryden, generously invited her to meet with them in July. It didn’t go well. Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance has since said a photo showing Beyak with the committee might be misleading: “The photograph carries the impression that all is well between our committee and the senator. Clearly that is not the case… Obviously the senator needs to brush up on her knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues.”

Judging from the statement Beyak posted this month, it’s evident she hasn’t. Her open letter appears to have been removed from her website, but in its place there’s an editorial defending her, written by Brian Giesbrecht, a retired Manitoba judge and an erstwhile contributor to the far-right website The Rebel.

Firing a senator is tricky, however the senate itself could vote to expel Beyak. And a number of politicians and Indigenous leaders have called for Beyak to resign or for the Conservatives to kick her out of caucus. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has so far refused to do so. “I certainly don’t agree with her sentiments, she doesn’t speak for our caucus, our party. I certainly condemn the choice of words that she used,” Scheer told the CBC. But Scheer’s criticism is without consequence. Did Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology for residential schools, in which he said, “this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country,” mean nothing to his party?

Beyak was a member on three Senate committees until Wednesday night—the CBC has reported her name will now be struck from all three rosters. At 68, she can serve as a senator for another seven years, earning more than $140,000 annually, plus expenses, with a lifetime pension to follow. And here’s a fun fact: One of the entitlements she receives for being a senator is the ability to claim the cost of purchasing bottled water if she travels to places where tap water might be contaminated. Meanwhile, there are currently 150 boil-water advisories in First Nations communities across the country.

Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson, a fellow Conservative, has called Beyak’s comments offensive, erroneous and “way off the mainstream.” But Beyak’s views on residential schools and about citizenship and status are dangerous precisely because they aren’t uncommon. Many Canadians remain ignorant about residential schools and there are plenty who also believe, like Beyak, that Aboriginal people are a drag on the public purse and “just need to get over” colonization. These racist untruths aren’t benign. They foster and perpetuate stereotypes that affect how Indigenous people are treated by doctors and nurses, by police and judges, by landlords and employers, by teachers and child welfare agencies.

And when these lies come out of the mouth of someone with the stature and legislative power of a senate seat and membership in the official opposition party, they carry even more weight. They don’t just reflect on Beyak. They reflect on the senate and her party. As long as Beyak holds her seat, and as long as she remains part of the Conservative caucus, those bodies tacitly condone her views. A final serious question, then, for both for Scheer and Beyak’s senate colleagues: Is someone whose views can only be described as racist really who you want representing you?


 

Why does Lynn Beyak still have a job?

  1. The Conservatives won’t get rid of this women, and probably will never ever either, because, she is one of their dog whistle’s. This women is a main part of the conservative fabric, and i hope she stays, just Pierre P, i hope he continues to be the Bull Horn in the HOCs in QP for the cons everyday, ooh baby, i love the smell of Grits for the 2019 election.

  2. Jaysus……apart from failing history class the woman appears to have been born with a tin ear!

    • Lynn Beyak is absolutely correct to say that Natives should abandon their reserves and special status and join Canadian society on an equal footing. No more “Nation to Nation” and “We are all treaties people” b*llsh*t. The results of the Truth and Reconcillation Report does not justify a parallel society for the Natives where they continue to suffer in abject poverty and then blame the Canadian Nation for it. The best way for them to keep their culture and heritage without the poverty is to become mainstream Canadians like myself, and many other minorities that call Canada home.

      • THEY DON’T WANT TO BE ASSIMILATED

        • YOU ARE WRONG. The Natives don’t want to loose their culture and heritage. Here I am, I Chinese Canadian who haven’t lost either through Canadian assimilation. Your fundamental premise is wrong, and hence the reason for their continued abject poverty and isolation.

          • Do the Italians want to be assimilated by the Greeks?

            Do the French want to be assimilated by the Belgians?

            Does Picard want to be assimilated by the Borg?

            No

            And the natives….the original owners of this land…..do not want to be assimilated by us. They’ve told us so many times. It’s more than song and dance you know…..there are huge chunks of real estate involved, and billions in resources.

            So top telling us what would be most convenient for you and stop trying to be Borg.

            They aren’t interested.

          • There is one very easy way to make them interested. Cut off all funding to their reserves! After all, why must one Nation feed another Nation in a Nation to Nation relationship. Without Canada Nation funding, you can sure bet the Natives will want to join Canadian society.

          • We aren’t supporting them.

            They are supporting us.

            We are the renters m’dear

            They are the owners.

          • Typical socialist BS with an upside down view of the world. The last time I checked my property deed, I am the owner, not the Natives who gave up that land in a treaty. The last time I checked my income tax contribution, I see the Nation of Canada providing lots of funds to the First Nations, not the other way around. Only an upside down socialist like yourself could consider the Natives support us when a) The First Nations don’t pay the Canada Nation and b) our property deeds clearly states we are the owners of the lands we stand on.

          • Well Penguin, the treaties you speak of are the key.

            The govt can’t sell what they don’t own.

            Natives own Parliament hill, dear.

          • The treaties, without any doubt or contention by the First Nations, clearly show the land is owned by the Nation of Canada. Only an upside Socialist would think otherwise.

          • LOL no, they don’t……..and there wasn’t a ‘nation of Canada’ in 1763

            ..

  3. Rachel Giese, the absolute ignorant one is you! Just because you don’t agree with Lynn Beyak’s viewpoint means that she should loose her job? You sound like a typical Liberal, where free speech needs to be protected through censorship. Lynn Beyak actual mentions some very important and critical viewpoints that should not be dismissed just because you don’t like hearing them.

    • Lynn Beyak is absolutely correct to say that Natives should abandon their reserves and special status and join Canadian society on an equal footing. No more “Nation to Nation” and “We are all treaties people” b*llsh*t. The results of the Truth and Reconcillation Report does not justify a parallel society for the Natives where they continue to suffer in abject poverty and then blame the Canadian Nation for it. The best way for them to keep their culture and heritage without the poverty is to become mainstream Canadians like myself, and many other minorities that call Canada home.

      • Pierre Trudeau proposed a similar approach to Senator Beyak’s in a white paper that advocated tearing up the Indian Act and then providing support to Indigenous peoples over some period of time while they assumed the full rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. The blowback from Aboriginal groups was extreme and he backed away from these proposals. He said at the time that he would not force them to do anything they didn’t want to and rather petulantly also said, “We’ll keep them in the ghetto as long as they want.” Trudeau’s name should be removed from all public places, such as Montreal’s airport, forthwith if we adopt Ms. Giese’s line of reasoning. But that sort of treatment is probably reserved for Conservative transgressors only.

        Nothing will change as long as the Canadian government remains bound by legislation that effectively makes Indigenous people wards of the state. Pierre Trudeau was right, there cannot be parallel societies and two kinds of citizens, one of which is wholly dependent on the other. Ms. Beyak may have expressed herself bluntly, but her position has some merit.

        With respect to her views on Residential Schools, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some kindness and love, some form of nurturing was experienced by some of those who passed through the system. Horribly misguided as this policy was, and not to diminish in any way the real suffering it caused, it is absurd to paint all of those who worked in the schools as evil incarnate, which I think is the point Senator Beyak was trying to make. She is on record, I believe, as supportive of restitution payments and the ongoing reconciliation effort.

        • She’s a racist…..not to mention stupid……and she should get the boot.

          • I think the racist one is you, who believes one type of Canadian has more rights than another depending on their racial ancestry. Kind of reminds me of Hitler, who forces one race to pay for the other race of his choice.

          • Emilyone: As with so many liberals these days, you throw around the accusation of racism whenever you dont agree. If you give it a little thought, I am sure you will come to the conclusion that racism is unsubstantiated bigotry with the emphasis being on the unsubstantiated quality. Senator Beyak believes, and I concur, that aboriginal people would be far better off if they took advantage of the opportunities that mainstream society offers them. Staying in unsustainable ghettos and complaining about your situation is completely unproductive. This is something that can be substantiated and therefore not racism but rather something called truth. Defining people by their race is the worst possible way to differentiate people. In South Africa it was called apartheid and gave different rights and priveliges to people dependent on their race. It was wrong there and it is wrong here. In addition, I dont recall agreeing to babysit any group in perpetuity so I really dont want to continue paying. It is very expensive to keep these people in poverty so lets stop. I was born and raised here. As far as im concerned, that makes me a native. We are all here together so lets do what makes sense and all live as equals. Take up any concerns you might have with the people who made the agreements and that wasnt me.

          • Well actually, there’s no such thing as ‘race’ but that’s a little too advanced for you……so we’ll just say…..give the excuses a rest.

        • Correction: It was Jean Chretien as Minister who wanted the natives to be full members of Canadian society. Trudeau chickened out as a matter of political expediency.

  4. Emilyone. You call everyone a racist but yet you refer to Douglas Peng, someone who has identified themselves as Chinese-Canadian, as “Penguin”. Pretty sure making fun of someone’s last name is considered racist.

    Also, you refer to others as racist but say ” there’s no such thing as ‘race’ but that’s a little too advanced for you”. So does that mean no one is a racist then?

    You also said that “the natives….the original owners of this land…..do not want to be assimilated by us. They’ve told us so many times. It’s more than song and dance you know…..there are huge chunks of real estate involved, and billions in resources.

    Pretty sure that the vast majority of land has been ceded to the Crown, with some exceptions (i.e. BC), and it is not so much assimilation as it is to have them join society at large. No one at this point is saying you can not celebrate/practice aspects of Indigenous culture, which they seem to do quite regularly. Also, the “billions in resources”, which mysteriously never seems to help certain reserves, is perhaps the real reason this farce continues.