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

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

‘He’s still with me on the daily’: Slain friend motivates Surrey’s Lyles to make it with B.C. Lions

Jaylen Sandhu a source of inspiration for running back, a former standout with Lord Tweedsmuir

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

South Surrey senior ‘irate’ over policing-transition venue change

Pat Anderson says she disagrees with the transition plan – but never got a chance to say so

Cloverdale Toastmasters celebrate 25 years of learning and laughter

Cloverdale club is a high achieving, yet laid-back Toastmasters group

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read