Manitoba

Lynn Beyak's boot from Conservative caucus draws praise from Indigenous leader, Winnipeg mayor

Her recurring comments on the supposedly redeeming qualities of Canada's residential school system got Sen. Lynn Beyak tossed from the Conservative caucus Thursday.

Beyak should still resign from Senate for pattern of support for residential schools, says Mayor Brian Bowman

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, right, says Sen. Lynn Beyak's comments on residential schools have no place in Canadian politics. (CBC)

A Manitoba First Nations leader said she is glad to see Sen. Lynn Beyak get booted from the federal Conservative caucus for her views on the residential school system, although she is surprised it took so long.

"It's about time," said Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. "There's no room for racism in the Canadian government or the Senate, so it's time that she starts to lose her ability to spew hate from such a high-level position as hers."

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Sheer announced Thursday Beyak was kicked out of caucus because she recently refused to take down about 100 letters on her website supporting her 2017 defence of residential schools.

Sen. Lynn Beyak's Senate website is home to published comments supporting her controversial views on residential schools. (lynnbeyak.sencanada.ca)

"Racism will not be tolerated in the Conservative caucus or Conservative Party of Canada," he said in a statement.

Beyak drew sharp criticism last spring after commending the efforts of many in the residential school system, and later inviting First Nations people to trade in their status cards "for a Canadian citizenship."

"Mistakes were made at residential schools — in many instances, horrible mistakes that overshadowed some good things that also happened at those schools," Beyak said in March.

"I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part."

Mayor still wants Beyak gone

Beyak no longer holds Conservative Party status but remains in the Senate.

Last fall, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman called her comments "incredibly ignorant."

At that time, he added his support to the chorus of voices calling for Beyak to resign from the Senate — a position he still holds.

Bowman's office said the mayor's stance hasn't changed since September 2017, when he called on Beyak to resign from the Senate. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"The mayor's view today is consistent with the last time the senator was in the news and he continues to believe she should resign from the Senate," a spokesperson from the mayor's office wrote in an email. 

"This latest example reinforces that belief because her views continue to work against the important efforts currently underway towards reconciliation in Canada."

North Wilson agrees.

"She should be removed from the Senate altogether. There is no room for racism at any level of government — especially not where we're supposed to be expecting the highest minds to be at that level and be the last sober thought in government," she said.

"We expect in a government that's running a country that's as powerful as Canada that we don't allow racists to be part of the decision making in this country."

As of Friday afternoon, Beyak's office had not responded to CBC's requests for a response.

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

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Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

With files from Catharine Tunney, Joe Lofaro and Holly Caruk