Sen. Lynn Beyak kicked out of Conservative caucus after refusing to remove 'racist' comments online

Sen. Lynn Beyak, known for defending residential schools as "well-intentioned," has been kicked out of the Conservative caucus after she refused to remove "racist" comments posted to her Senate website.

'Racism will not be tolerated,' Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says

Sen. Lynn Beyak was removed from the Conservative caucus because of letters posted to her Senate website supporting her earlier defence of the residential school system. (CBC)

Sen. Lynn Beyak, known for defending residential schools as "well-intentioned," has been kicked out of the Conservative caucus after she refused to remove "racist" comments posted to her Senate website.

Beyak had posted roughly 100 letters in support of her earlier defence of residential schools — where some 6,000 Indigenous children died from malnutrition and disease — to her Senate website. 

In a statement, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he found out about the letters on Tuesday and asked Beyak to remove some of the comments, but she refused.  Scheer's spokesperson, Jake Enwright, said the conversation took place over the phone.

"Who would be naïve to think that alcohol, drugs, incest would not have found [their] way into the lives of the North's children," read one of the letters flagged by Scheer's office.

"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," read another.

Scheer said promoting that comment was "unacceptable for a Conservative parliamentarian."

"To suggest that Indigenous Canadians are lazy compared to other Canadians, is simply racist," he said in a statement.

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

'Egregious abuse of public office'

While she holds no party status, Beyak can remain a member of the Senate — something that's upset other members of Parliament.

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said it's "disappointing" the Conservative leadership allowed Beyak to use her position in the Senate to "espouse her ill-informed and offensive views about Canadian history."

"Although Senator Beyak has been finally removed from the Conservative caucus, it is more than disappointing that her appointment by the Conservatives allows her continue to use parliamentary resources to validate the views of those who refuse to accept the truth and propagate the misinformation and prejudice that continue to feed racism in our country," she said in a statement.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP MP Charlie Angus called it an "egregious abuse of public office."

"In terms of what can be done now in the absence of any clear tools of accountability I would remind you that as prime minister your words carry an enormous moral weight," he said.

Angus urged Trudeau to reach out to independent and Liberal senators, as well as Sheer, to address "Beyak's fundamental unfitness to serve as a representative of the Canadian people." 

Party says Beyak removed due to actions

When asked if Beyak could have stayed in caucus if she had taken the letters down, Enwright said he's "not going to answer a hypothetical" scenario.

"Statement reads: 'As a result of her actions' not 'as a result of her refusal,'" he said.

Beyak rose to notoriety in the spring of 2017 after saying there were positives that came out of Canada's residential school system.

Months later, calls for her resignation resurfaced after she urged First Nations people to exchange their status cards "for a Canadian citizenship" and called on them to promote their culture "on their own dime, on their own time."

Beyak, appointed to the Senate by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013, had already been removed, by then interim leader Rona Ambrose, from all Senate committees for her comments.

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

"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."

Enwright said there's "a fine line between espousing distasteful views on a policy position and willingly promoting unacceptable racist comments."

Sen. Larry Smith, leader of the Conservative Senate caucus, said Beyak's removal from the Senate caucus and the National Conservative Party of Canada caucus came following consultations with Scheer.

"As an internal party issue, I consider [the] matter closed and will have no further comment," he said. 

Beyak's office has not responded to CBC's requests for comment.

Should Sen. Beyak be expelled from the Senate?

5 years ago
Duration 6:36
'I don't think this is grounds for her to be expelled...she should feel some sort of remorse, she should apologize,' says Sen. Lilian Dyck.