With little fanfare, the Senate of Canada voted today to suspend Sen. Lynn Beyak for the remainder of this parliamentary session because she failed to complete the anti-racism training she was directed to undergo the last time she was temporarily kicked out of the Red Chamber.
The Senate agreed, on a voice vote, to adopt the ethics committee’s latest report on Beyak, which calls for her suspension from the chamber so she can complete the prescribed training and take time to think about the harm she did to Indigenous people by posting racist letters on her website.
There was no standing vote; the report was adopted “on division”, meaning there was some opposition in the chamber.
This latest suspension comes two days after the senator formally apologized in the upper house. For years, Beyak has insisted she did nothing wrong in posting the letters to her Senate webpage, but she conceded Tuesday that her actions were “ill-considered.”
“I would like to unreservedly apologize for my actions,” she said. “Because of my belief in free speech, my initial instincts were to leave the letters on the website. After long and careful consideration, I now regret not insisting on their removal.”
The Senate’s internal economy committee will meet this afternoon to formally remove her from the Senate payroll.
The ethics committee stipulated that, for the duration of her suspension, Beyak should not receive any remuneration or reimbursement of expenses, including any sessional or living allowances, and that she be denied access to Senate resources — including office space.
In January, the ethics committee recommended Beyak be suspended for a second time because it concluded that she had not adequately addressed the underlining issue that led to her initial suspension: that she doesn’t understand the pain she caused by describing Indian residential schools in positive terms and by posting racist letters to her website defending her position.
While recommending a second suspension, the committee did lay out another path forward for Beyak to return to the chamber.
The committee has directed the Senate Ethics Officer to “identify and approve … an educational program provider with demonstrated experience in race relations” to provide Beyak with training.
The committee said that after Beyak completes her training, it wants the designated trainer to issue a “written and objective evaluation of Sen. Beyak’s performance and attendance.” The committee can then evaluate Beyak’s performance.
‘Well-intentioned’ residential schools
The letters in question were sent to Beyak after CBC News reported on comments she made about the Indian residential school system in March 2017.
Beyak praised the “well-intentioned” instructors at these schools and chastised the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for not “focusing on the good” coming out of these institutions.
She also grilled residential school survivors about their time at the schools during a Senate committee meeting.
In the months that followed, she posted some of those letters to her official Senate webpage and refused to retract her comments. One letter posted on Beyak’s website said Indigenous people “should be very grateful” for residential schools. Other letter writers used inflammatory language and stereotypes to describe Indigenous people and their history.
Beyak was suspended and sent to anti-racism training last fall — but she was asked to leave after her first lesson. Instructors at the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres said her “inflexibility and conduct made the learning environment unsafe.”