Edmonton mayor calls for resignation of senator who suggested Indigenous Canadians aren't citizens

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson is calling for an Ontario senator’s resignation after she suggested Indigenous Canadians are not citizens.

Don Iveson 'baffled' by Sen. Lynn Beyak's call for Indigenous people to give up their status

Edmonton mayor 'deeply offended with senator's comments'

6 years ago
Duration 1:02
Mayor Don Iveson accuses Senator Lynn Beyak of downplaying the harm done to Indigenous peoples by residential schools.

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson is calling for an Ontario senator's resignation after she suggested Indigenous Canadians are not citizens.

Speaking to reporters at the FISE World Edmonton event, Iveson didn't mince words when asked about Sen. Lynn Beyak, who wrote on her Senate website that Indigenous people should "trade [their] status card[s] for a Canadian citizenship."

Iveson said Beyak's comments were disconcerting. 

"I am deeply offended with the senator's comments," Iveson said Thursday. "I am baffled that, in this day and age, that people still hold these views about Indigenous Canadians."

Iveson said though the City of Edmonton wouldn't have an official position on the tenure of an Ontario senator, he made his thoughts clear.

"Personally, as a Canadian, I think her time in the Senate should be over."

Beyak's March controversy

Beyak first made headlines in March, when she defended the residential school system. She said some men and women running the schools were "well-intentioned" and that their "good deeds" aren't acknowledged.

There is a section in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report that addresses some positive stories to come out of residential schools.

Sen. Lynn Beyak also made headlines in March when she defended the residential school system. (Supplied by Darlene Angeconeb)

In her most recent letter, dated Sept. 1, she wrote "a small number of Aboriginals found the schools bad and a slightly smaller number found them good."

According to the TRC, of the estimated 150,000 First Nation, Métis and Inuit students who went to residential schools, 37,951 — or 25 per cent — made claims regarding physical or sexual abuse.

Iveson, who was an honorary witness to some of the documentation and testimonies in the TRC, said Beyak's comments, some of which are factually incorrect, are a major issue — especially coming from a politician.

'An absolute black eye'

"To continue to suggest that what happened in Indian residential schools is anything other than an absolute black eye for Canada, is to deny a history and a truth that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has brought to light for all of us," he said.

Following Beyak's most recent comments regarding Indigenous Canadians, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman also called for the senator to resign.

Iveson encouraged other politicians to decry the senator's comments. 

"I appreciate Mayor Bowman calling it out, and suggesting that we need to talk about how awkward it is that people who are in Ottawa, in our parliamentary system, have not got the reconciliation memo yet," Iveson said.

Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate, distanced himself from Beyak in a statement, and said the personal opinions of Beyak don't reflect the positions held by the Conservative caucus as a whole.

"We have taken additional steps to address Sen. Beyak's ongoing role within our caucus," Smith said.

It's not clear what the additional steps are.

Iveson said the suffering Indigenous people in residential schools faced, including physical, mental and sexual abuse, can't be ignored.

"To say that that isn't a legacy that our country needs to deal with, to undermine that in any way, that's pretty awkward."


Kyle Muzyka


Kyle Muzyka is a Métis journalist from ayahciyiniw-sâkahikanihk in Treaty 8. He works for CBC Radio. Reach him at kyle.muzyka@cbc.ca, on Twitter or via Keybase.

With files from Travis McEwan, CBC Manitoba