Saga over senator who posted anti Indigenous letters continues in Senate

OTTAWA — Lynn Beyak, the senator who posted derogatory letters about Indigenous people on her website, once again faces the prospect of expulsion from the Senate.

The Senate’s ethics committee recommended in June that Beyak’s one-year suspension from the upper house be lifted because she had taken anti-racism training and apologized for posting the letters.

But the Senate was still debating the committee’s report when it broke for the summer.

Sen. Mary Jane McCallum, a member of the Independent Senators Group, says the matter was “ended prematurely” with the prorogation of Parliament in August.

She says that has allowed “the quiet reinstatement” of Beyak as a senator in good standing, without her colleagues ever deciding whether that should happen.

McCallum has now introduced a motion calling for Beyak’s expulsion from the chamber.

“If it is believed that Sen. Beyak has merited her return, she should be entitled to return to the Senate by a decision of her peers, not to simply return because the clock has run out on her suspension,” McCallum, a First Nations woman of Cree heritage, said in a statement Tuesday.

She called the way the Senate has dealt with Beyak an example of institutional racism.

The offending letters were posted in response to a 2018 speech in which Beyak argued that residential schools did a lot of good for Indigenous children, although many suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition.

The Senate’s ethics officer, Pierre Legault, concluded in March 2019 that five of the letters in particular contained racist content, suggesting that Indigenous people are lazy, chronic whiners who are milking the residential-schools issue to get government handouts.

Beyak, who was kicked out of the Conservative caucus over the matter, was suspended without pay from the Senate in May 2019.

She refused for almost a year to delete the letters, casting herself as a champion of free speech and a victim of political correctness. They were finally deleted from her website by the Senate administration.

She eventually apologized and agreed to take cultural sensitivity training but the ethics committee deemed the initial apology to be perfunctory and the training a fiasco.

Beyak’s suspension ended automatically when Parliament dissolved for last fall’s federal election. But the Senate voted in February to suspend her again because, while she had finally offered a more profuse apology, she still hadn’t completed an anti-racism course.

Once she did that, the committee finally recommended in June that Beyak be reinstated.

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