Senator Kim Pate tours Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School

The member of the Aboriginal Peoples Senate Committee told CBC she wanted to find out how she could help the school and its students.

Pate says her visit wasn't timed to respond to controversial comments by senator Lynn Beyak

Senator Kim Pate spoke to students Thursday at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

A Canadian senator and member of the Aboriginal Peoples Senate Committee visited Thunder Bay, Ont., Thursday to tour Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.

Kim Pate told CBC she didn't intentionally time her trip in response to controversial comments about residential schools made by fellow senator Lynn Beyak, but she said many in the senate are concerned about Beyak's remarks. 

"What it shows is, at one level, ignorance and misunderstanding of Indigenous peoples and their lived experience and intergenerational experiences that is not uncommon in the population but that absolutely needs to be corrected," Pate said.

Pate wanted to visit DFC, she said, to find out how she could help the school and its students.  

Prior to joining the senate Pate was executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.  She also worked with the John Howard Society, which works with people who have come in contact with the law.  

She knows many women who ended up in prison because they didn't have the chance to get an education, she said, and she also knows many residential school survivors. 

Speaking to students in the school's art room on Thursday morning, Pate spoke about her work with youth, men and women in prisons, the over-representation of Indigenous people in the prison system, and her efforts to address the societal factors that contribute to people ending up in the criminal justice system. 

She spoke extensively about her advocacy for a guaranteed livable income and her desire to see a repeal of mandatory minimum sentences, 

After meeting with students in the art class, Pate received a tour of DFC before participating in an assembly with the larger student body.

Pate said she felt privileged to be invited to DFC.