Lynn Beyak resignation from Senate “a bittersweet moment for many residential school survivors”
Tim Brody - Editor
Former senator Lynn Beyak, who defended residential schools, has stepped down from the Senate of Canada.
She shared in a Jan. 25 press release, “that effective January 25, 2021 – the end of my 8th year - I will be retiring from the Senate of Canada.”
Beyak, who is from Northwestern Ontario, was suspended from the Senate in May 2019 after the Senate’s Ethic’s Officer concluded that five letters on her Senate website contained racist content. The letters were deleted by the Senate administration after Beyak refused to remove them.
Beyak was suspended a second time in February 2020 after failing to complete mandated anti-racism training.
Beyak stated in her press release, “Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well. And finally, I have been criticized for offering concerned Canadians a space to comment critically about the Indian Act. My statements and the resulting posts were never meant to offend anyone, and I continue to believe that Indigenous issues are so important to all of us that a frank and honest conversation about them is vital.”
Last February, Sioux Lookout Municipal Councillor Joe Cassidy and six other young regional councillors called for Beyak’s removal from the Red Chamber.
Cassidy shared in an emailed statement to The Bulletin last week, “I am satisfied that she has stepped down, however the means of how she resigned are concerning to me and only reinforce the reasons that she was not suited to the office.
“I am disappointed that she resigned before the motion for her removal was able to be considered. I also can’t imagine how someone can make an apology in the Canadian Senate, and then go back on that apology, it’s disgraceful.
“I am hopeful that the next person appointed to that office, is more suited to it, and can mend some of the damage done by the outgoing Senator.”
In 2017, Beyak was invited by the Sioux Lookout Mayor’s Committee for Truth and Reconciliation to meet with them to discuss issues surrounding truth and reconciliation.
Residential school survivor and Order of Canada recipient Garnet Angeconeb was a member of that committee at the time.
Angeconeb shared in an emailed statement to The Bulletin last week, “Not only does Lynn Beyak leave a mess for others to mop up, the whole ordeal of her tenure and related matters need to be probed and exposed to Canadians. There are too many unanswered questions to just let her off the hook that easily.”
He further shared, “I know many residential school survivors are disgusted. Some have had to deal with old wounds: not just wounds of physical or sexual abuse, but also, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual.
“When Lynn Beyak announced her resignation this week, it left a bittersweet moment for many residential school survivors, many of whom have been calling for her resignation since the spring of 2017.
“In July 2017 members of the Sioux Lookout Committee on Truth and Reconciliation met with Lynn Beyak inside the sacred traditional healing room at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre,” Angeconeb said. “It was an effort to educate her about the horrors of the residential schools system and about the damaging effects of her actions. The meeting was a futile exercise. It collapsed. Lynn Beyak lacked empathy, and was phoney and condescending.
“As a corrective measure, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Conflicts of Interest demanded that she take sensitivity training on Indigenous issues and apologize.”
Responding to her letter of resignation last week, Angeconeb shared, “In her letter of resignation, Lynn Beyak adamantly stands by her original statement on the “good” of residential schools. Obviously she was never serious about the conditions imposed by her senate colleagues. Now it is evident that she only apologized for political convenience to save her position in the senate. She cannot speak firsthand about other people’s lived experiences of the residential schools system. And in retrospect, she did intend to condone racist views on her government website.”
Angeconeb feels the federal government and senate have a lot of questions to answer, “What happened, how are appointees vetted - qualifications etc., why was this debacle allowed to go on for so long, what did the entire fiasco cost and not just in financial terms, what are the lessons learned and what changes are needed to obviate this type of abuse of political process?
“Free speech aside, she spewed out rhetoric that was factually wrong; trading in status cards for Canadian citizenship. She also claimed to be Métis. Free speech means speaking truth and facts.”
“If the federal government can spend upwards of $393,367 to investigate the bullying behaviours of Julie Payette, I am sure they can probe the inside story of what really went on with Lynn Beyak.
“Who knows, this could be the catalyst that leads to a larger discussion, be it: senate reform or abolition thereof.
“So let’s “step up to the plate” together,” he concluded.