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

City of Surrey says pension benefits ‘guaranteed’ for police recruits

A National Police Federation representative says it may not be enough incentive

Surrey-area teens will have a ball at Christmas, thanks to collection effort

Realty company’s Bring on the Balls campaign now in its third year

Surrey groups receive funding for training support for people 55-plus

PICS getting $728K to help 120 people over two years

City ready for ride-hailing, says Delta mayor

The city has set up business licence fees for ride-hailing on par with what taxis in Delta pay

South Surrey mom adds festive touch to late son’s Spirit Garden tree

Christmas twinkle adds ‘a little bit of joy at a difficult time’

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2017 Stanley Park stabbing

Lubomir Kunik was found by a man out walking his dog on the beach late on Feb. 1, 2017

Vancouver homeless camp brings community, safety, home, says resident

Encampment in the city’s Downtown Eastside is one of many that have sprung up in B.C.

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Most Read