Young regional councillors calling on Senate to remove Lynn Beyak
Tim Brody - Editor
A group of young local leaders is calling on the Senate of Canada to vacate the seat of Senator Lynn Beyak of Dryden.
Sioux Lookout Councillor Joe Cassidy is one of seven young regional councillors calling for Beyak’s removal from the Red Chamber through a statement released by the young councillors on their own behalf on Feb. 19.
Signatories of the statement are Douglas W. Judson (Fort Frances), Cody Fraser (Thunder Bay), Joe Cassidy (Sioux Lookout), Kirsi Ralko (Kenora), Shelby Ch’ng (Thunder Bay), Daniel Sutton (Ear Falls), and Andrew Nisly (Sioux Narrows-Nester Falls).
“It’s something I’ve been watching for a while,” Cassidy shared. “I was approached by the group to join. The one thing that I think needs to come out of this is that you are appointed to the Senate and you have a job to do. Part of that job, with the first report that came out, was you need to take the training, issue an apology, acknowledge the wrong and make it right and move forward in a positive manner. The apology that was issued, it barely comprehends an apology and the fact that you couldn’t complete the training, I find it unacceptable.”
Speaking to the creation of the coalition of young councillors, Cassidy informed, “It was formed by Doug in Fort Frances, he was basically just reaching out to the young councillors around the region and saying there’s a lot of challenges we’re facing. I think this past election there’s been a lot of uptake in youth on the council right now. I think trying to get everyone together and formulate some of our struggles and relay them and share some ideas on how we raise families in this environment, how do we find meaningful employment, the challenges that society in 2020 represents and trying to come together in a way that we can put our heads together and help the whole northwest region. I think it will be very beneficial, especially with our council having two younger, under 40 members as well.”
This is the regional councillors’ full statement:
“We are councillors in Northwestern Ontario. We make this statement on our own behalf.
“Collectively, we are a caucus of the youngest municipal representatives in the region, and as such, we are uniquely positioned to comment on the aspirations and challenges of our communities, and the bonds which must be strengthened between all treaty people who share this territory.
“Today we come together to speak out on an issue which continues to sow shame in our region, to bring disrepute to our communities, and to signal-boost racism in our midst. It is an issue which deserves a forthright response from all political leaders who share the honour of representing
“In March 2019, the Senate Ethics Officer released a report concluding that Senator Lynn Beyak had breached Senate rules by posting letters on her Senate website that contained racist content targeting Indigenous people. The content of those letters and the Senator’s remarks defending them have been widely publicized and variously attributed to the Senator from Dryden or Northwestern Ontario.
“The Senate suspended Senator Beyak for the remainder of the last Parliament. Since then, it has come to light in a new report from the Senate’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest that the Senator has not sufficiently complied with the measures put in place by the Senate to address her behaviour.
“Disturbing accounts of the Senator’s participation in an Indigenous cultural sensitivity training session have emerged which cast serious doubt on her willingness to learn and accept the facts and lived experiences of Indigenous people, or to recognize that racism persists in our region and across Canada.
“We can assure the Senator that racism exists in Northwestern Ontario. It is the job of local leaders to use their offices to confront it with uncompromising principles of inclusion, human dignity, respect, and truth. And as elected representatives for this region, it is our honour to do so, as part of our commitment to build community.
“Engaging in the process of reconciliation and strengthening relationships with local First Nation and Métis communities helps our communities to move forward. We take exception to the unelected Senator’s ongoing use of a privileged and well-compensated public office to undermine those efforts. The Senator’s conduct has been out-of-step with the future and identity we see for the region, and dismissive of the central and welcomed role that Indigenous communities and young people have in the economic, civic, and social fabric of Northwestern Ontario.
“At a time when many communities and worthy causes across our region are in need of leadership and voice on the national stage, it is simply no longer acceptable for Senator Beyak to squander her office and its resources to cast aspersions on Indigenous people, obscure the reality of racism and those who experience it, and bring disrepute to our region.
“True political leaders are working hard to snuff out hate, to reconcile historical differences, and to plot a positive and honest path forward – one envisioned by the treaty relationships which have allowed our municipalities to thrive in this territory.
“The Senate committee recommends that the Senator be suspended again, but enough is enough. If this Senator will not resign, we call on the Senate to do everything in its power to vacate her seat so that the privilege of serving in the Red Chamber may be extended to an individual who is capable of standing with the people of our region, advancing their priorities, and honourably representing Northwestern Ontario in Parliament.”