As It Happens

Sen. Lynn Beyak under fire for 'racist, offensive, hurtful' letters posted to Senate website

The Conservative senator has posted more than 100 "letters of support" on her personal Senate page lauding her for defending Canada's residential school system.
Sen. Lynn Beyak has shared letters of support for her controversial remarks about Canada's residential school system. (CBC)
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Story transcript

UPDATE: On Thursday evening, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer confirmed Sen. Lynn Beyak has been kicked out of caucus. Here is his statement: 

"On Tuesday, January 2, 2018, I learned that Senator Lynn Beyak posted to her Parliamentary website approximately 100 letters from Canadians in support of her position on residential schools. While the vast majority of letters focused on the history of residential schools, other letters contained comments about indigenous Canadians in general.  One of these comments stated:

"I'm no anthropologist but it seems every opportunistic culture, subsistence hunter/gatherers seeks to get what they can for no effort. There is always a clash between industrial/organized farming culture that values effort as opposed to a culture that will sit and wait until the government gives them stuff.

"Promoting this comment is offensive and unacceptable for a Conservative Parliamentarian. To suggest that indigenous Canadians are lazy compared to other Canadians, is simply racist. I demanded Senator Beyak remove this content from her website. She refused. As a result of her actions, the Conservative Senate Leader Larry Smith and I have removed Senator Lynn Beyak from the Conservative National Caucus.

"Racism will not be tolerated in the Conservative Caucus or Conservative Party of Canada."

You can read our original story below.


Sen. Lynn Beyak has been accused of posting "racist" and "offensive" letters about Indigenous people on her taxpayer-funded Senate website.

The Conservative senator has posted more than 100 "letters of support" on her personal Senate page lauding her for defending Canada's residential school system, where some 6,000 Indigenous children died from malnourishment and disease.

"Some are frankly racist, offensive, hurtful and it was quite shocking to me that anyone would publish something like that on their website," Saskatchewan Sen. Lillian Dyck, a member of Gordon First Nation and chair of the Aboriginal Peoples committee, told As it Happens host Carol Off. 

"The fact that they're on her website, regardless [if] she chose them or her staff members chose them, she's responsible. Anything that's up there, apparently she endorses. Otherwise she wouldn't post it."

Beyak has not responded to As It Happens' request for comment.

The letters are signed only by first name.

They vary in length and tone, but all support Beyak's controversial statement that "good deeds" accomplished by "well-intentioned" religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The TRC called the schools a tool of "cultural genocide" after documenting stories about children being sexually abused, forcefully kept from their families and punished for speaking their languages or practicing their cultures.

Sen. Lillian Dyck said some of the letters on Beyak's Senate site are 'racist' and 'hurtful.' (Jason Warick)

"It's really remarkable to me  that people like Sen. Beyak can still resist and deny the history of what happened in Indian residential schools," Dyck said.

"Certainly there were some who had good experiences, but the vast majority of stories tell about the horrors that went on."

'Common stereotypes'

In an article for The Walrus, which first drew attention to the matter, writer Robert Jago said they "promote common stereotypes and tropes about First Nations people."

One letter says Indigenous people "should be very grateful" for residential schools

"Where would they be today if it were not for the residential school that were set up to help them? I expect they would still be living out in their isolated villages, un educated, a very high rate of child birth deaths, an very short life expectancy, and living in very damp cold dwellings," it reads.

A screenshot shows Sen. Lynn Beyak's personal Senate website. (lynnbeyak.sencanada.ca)

"I'm no anthropolgist but it seems every opportunistic culture, subsistance hunter/gatherers seeks to get what they can for no effort," reads another.

"There is always a clash between an industrial/ organized farming culture that values effort as opposed to a culture that will sit and wail until the government gives them stuff."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's office did not respond to As It Happens' request for comment. Larry Smith, head of Conservative Senate caucus, declined an interview.

Dyck, meanwhile, said the letters are more than offensive — they could be illegal.

"Maybe someone should consider laying a charge of hate speech against her because she is using her public website in a way against an identifiable group that might be considered inciting hatred," she said.