Beyak suspended from Senate over refusal to delete racist letters from website

Lynn Beyak was suspended Thursday without pay

Lynn Beyak cast herself as a defender of free speech and a victim of political correctness moments before senators voted summarily Thursday to suspend her without pay from the Senate for refusing to delete derogatory letters about Indigenous people from her website.

The suspension applies only to the remainder of the current session of Parliament; she’ll be able to resume sitting as a senator when a new session begins following the Oct. 21 federal election.

However, if Beyak continues to refuse to comply with remedial measures recommended by the Senate’s ethics committee, the upper chamber could consider further action against her in the future.

In a report last month, the committee recommended that Beyak be suspended, that she complete, at her own expense, ”educational programs related to racism” towards Indigenous people; apologize in writing to the Senate; and delete the offending letters from her website. It also recommended the Senate administration remove the offending letters if Beyak doesn’t do so herself.

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

In a speech just prior to the vote on the committee’s report, an emotional Beyak pleaded for just one of her fellow senators to ask that the matter be adjourned until next week to give her colleagues time to consider it more carefully. No one stepped up and a voice vote to adopt the report was taken immediately without further debate. Conservative Sen. Don Plett asked that the vote be “on division,” meaning some senators were opposed but would not insist on standing up one by one for a recorded vote.

Beyak, appointed to the Senate in 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus last year over her refusal to remove the letters from her website.

In her speech, Beyak doubled down on her contention that there was nothing racist in the letters. She said her only sin is refusing to censor the free expression of Canadians and she called the proposed penalty ”totalitarian” and unworthy of a free country like Canada.

“This is a critical day. Either senators are free to speak without fear of reprisal or we are not,” she told the Senate.

“The only conduct or action that is condemned is my refusal to censor Canadians and shut down debate about sensitive issues on which Canadians have expressed various opinions.”

The letters were posted in response to a 2018 speech in which Beyak argued that Indian residential schools did a lot of good for Indigenous children, although many suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition.

READ MORE: B.C. estimates $7 billion laundered in 2018, $5 billion in real estate

The Senate’s ethics officer, Pierre Legault, concluded in March that five of the letters contained racist content, suggesting that Indigenous people are lazy, chronic whiners who are milking the residential-schools issue to get government handouts. Beyak refused to accept Legault’s order that she delete the letters and apologize to the Senate, which prompted the upper house’s ethics committee and finally the Senate as a whole to subsequently take up the matter.

In her speech Thursday, Beyak cited a letter of support she received last week from a retired Manitoba judge who wrote that her “crime was refusing to go along with the politically correct version of the prevailing orthodoxy pertaining to Indigenous issues.”

But Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett tweeted that the issue “was never about political correctness — it’s about racism that hurts people.”

In a post on Twitter, Bennett thanked the Senate for “denouncing racism and for moving to take down the hateful letters” on Beyak’s website.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

Iconic rock photographer Bob Gruen to exhibit work in Kelowna

Gruen’s portfolio includes John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, among many others.

Kelowna car thief’s sentencing delayed

Stanley Nickason pleaded guilty car theft charges in B.C. Supreme Court

Alleged impaired driver flips car near Lake Country

The incident happened early Friday morning

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

World-famous sopranos to hold concert in Okanagan

Two Canadian sopranos are bringing their world-famous voices to the Okanagan for one night only

Summerland Fall Fair to include zucchini race

Event is in honour of bobsleigh athlete Justin Kripps

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Most Read