Senate committee urges renewed suspension for Ontario Sen. Lynn Beyak

Senate committee urges renewed suspension for Ontario Sen. Lynn Beyak

OTTAWA — Sen. Lynn Beyak should be suspended again without pay, the Senate’s ethics committee recommended Friday.

Beyak’s colleagues ousted her from the upper chamber temporarily last spring after condemning as racist several letters she had posted to her website.

The Ontario senator had published letters supporting her view that some Indigenous people had had positive experiences in residential schools, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded caused generations of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children to suffer abuse and alienation.

Some of the letters went beyond that, suggesting Indigenous people or their cultures are inferior.

Beyak’s suspension ended automatically when Parliament was dissolved for the federal election last fall.

Attempts to reach Beyak through her lawyer and her Senate office weren’t immediately successful Friday. In November, Beyak said she had met all the conditions to return to work.

She had removed the letters the ethics committee found most objectionable from her website, taken a briefing on the role of a senator, completed education programs on Indigenous history and delivered an apology, she said.

“I deeply respect the Senate and love working with my Senate colleagues. I pledge myself to uphold the highest standards of conduct and look forward to working hard for all of the people of Ontario and Canada,” Beyak wrote in a statement at the time.

But the committee concluded in a report released Friday that Beyak did not meet the conditions set out for her return, calling an apology she delivered insufficient and her participation in educational programs on racism towards Indigenous Peoples in Canada incomplete.

The committee agreed that the letters had been taken down and that Beyak had been briefed on her duties as a senator. But it wasn’t satisfied that she had taken her education on Indigenous history seriously.

“On the one hand, Sen. Beyak can rightfully assert that she attempted to complete the training that was provided to her,” the report says. “On the other, the training provider indicated that Sen. Beyak failed to exhibit any willingness to learn and because of this the training provider did not provide the agreed-upon instruction in its entirety.”

The committee also found that Beyak’s one-sentence apology for having been found in breach of Senate rules wasn’t good enough. The senators “cannot accept an apology that fails to show awareness of the wrong, fails to accept responsibility for the wrong, fails to sincerely apologize, fails to atone for past actions and fails to commit to take action in order to rectify the situation,” they wrote.

Among the committee’s five members is Sen. Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools before he was named to the Senate. The committee includes three senators appointed by Liberal prime ministers and two appointed by Conservative Stephen Harper.

Beyak was also a Harper appointee, though Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer ejected her from the Tory caucus amid the controversy over the letters.

The conclusion that Beyak should be suspended again is only a recommendation; the full Senate would have to vote to carry it out. The committee says it will keep an eye on Beyak and report again at the end of June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Senator Beyak

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