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

A graphic design of the new RCMP detachment which will be located on a five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road. (File graphic)
Heavy trucks not allowed shortcut during construction of RCMP detachment

North Cowichan won’t allow heavy trucks on Drinkwater Road where not designated

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Laketown Ranch to welcome campers this summer

Sunfest site will provide camping amenities between May and September

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

The frequent disruptions to water service in Chemainus are expected to be a lot less after North Cowichan replaces the Smiley Road water main. (File photo)
Smiley Road water main in Chemainus to be replaced

$890,000 project expected to be completed this spring

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

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’

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

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Most Read