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

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Most Read