Sen. Lynn Beyak waits for the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Beyak is retiring from the Senate three years early. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie

Sen. Lynn Beyak waits for the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Beyak is retiring from the Senate three years early. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie

Lynn Beyak, who defended ‘good’ of residential schools, retires early from the Senate

Many Indigenous children were abused and thousands died of disease, malnutrition in residential schools

Ontario Sen. Lynn Beyak is leaving the upper chamber three years before her mandatory retirement and defiantly standing by her views on residential schools on her way out.

Named to the Senate on the advice of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013, she says she was committed to serving just eight years.

That is the term limit that would have been imposed on senators under the Harper government’s original plan to have an elected Senate, which never came to fruition.

Thirty other senators named on the advice of Harper are still in the Senate and all but one — Alberta Sen. Scott Tannas — have now been there more than eight years.

Announcing her early retirement Monday, Beyak said she stands by her controversial statements on residential schools, which played a role in her being ousted from the Conservative caucus and suspended from the upper chamber.

READ MORE: Sen. Lynn Beyak removed from Tory caucus over ‘racist’ post on website

“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,” she wrote.

“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.”

Beyak got into trouble for publishing derogatory letters about Indigenous people on her website. They were in response to a speech she gave in 2017 about the move to rename the building housing the Prime Minister’s Office on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa, which at that time was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, who was involved in the residential school system.

READ MORE: Beyak removed from Senate committee over residential school comments

In that speech, Beyak argued residential schools had done good for Indigenous children, although many suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition in them after being forcibly removed from their homes and communities. The schools were operated by churches and funded by the federal government.

The Senate’s ethics officer, Pierre Legault, concluded in March 2019 that five of the letters in particular contained racist content. 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.

READ MORE: Beyak suspended from Senate over refusal to delete racist letters from website

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 the 2019 federal election. The Senate voted in February 2020 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, but the wider Senate was still debating the committee’s report when it broke for the summer and then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament.

That meant her suspension was lifted automatically and she was reinstated.

In December, Sen. Mary Jane McCallum, a member of the Independent Senators Group, introduced a motion calling for Beyak’s expulsion from the chamber. It was not debated before senators paused for the holidays. The Senate resumes sitting Feb. 2.

In her official letter of retirement to the Senate Monday, Beyak defended both her 2017 speech and her choice to share the letters she received.

She wrote she was attacked by “those with an agenda for power and control, and an aversion to honest debate,” with the help of some in the media.

“The fact that a senator dared to speak the opinions of millions of Canadians frightened those same few people, and their fear has been evident every day since, as they have constantly attacked me in Ottawa with unconstitutional motions and costly inquiries, all in an effort to stifle freedom of expression,” she wrote.

“Not only has it been my duty as a senator (who constitutionally cannot be expelled), but it has been my privilege, to weather those attacks on behalf of Canadians who value freedom of expression,” she continued. “I will treasure the many thousands of letters I have received from all across the country in support of my efforts for the rest of my life.”

ALSO READ: O’Toole walks back words on residential schools amid backlash

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenousresidential schoolsSenator Beyak

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
County Council discusses new tax incentives for non-residential properties

County of Wetaskiwin Council discussed new tax incentives for non-residential properties at… Continue reading

Screen grab/ Government of Alberta COVID-19 aggregate data map
City of Wetaskiwin down to just five active cases

Active COVID-19 cases in the City of Wetaskiwin continue to decline.

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

File photo
Norris Beach Road Tender Approved

County of Wetaskiwin Council awarded the tender for Range Road 11 to Crow Enterprises Ltd.

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Maskwacis virtual job fair
MEC goes virtual with job fair and services during pandemic

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Maskwacis Employment Center’s (MEC’s) semi-annual job… Continue reading

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Most Read