Politics

Independent senators call for ethics probe into 'deeply offensive' comments on Lynn Beyak's website

A handful of Independent senators have asked the ethics officer to investigate whether letters posted to Sen. Lynn Beyak's website supporting her views on Canada's Indigenous Peoples violate their code of conduct.

Beyak calls for a 'fresh start' on issues surrounding Indigenous Peoples

A group of independent senators are calling for an investigation into comments posted on Senator Lynn Beyak's website, asking whether they breached the code of conduct.

A handful of Independent senators have asked the ethics officer to investigate whether letters posted to Sen. Lynn Beyak's website supporting her views on Canada's Indigenous Peoples violate their code of conduct.

Beyak, now sitting as non-affiliated senator after being removed from the Conservative caucus on Thursday, has been under fire for posting comments on her Senate website considered racist against Indigenous persons.

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, said five senators sent a request to the ethics office on Tuesday morning asking whether Beyak has upheld "the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of senator," as required by the code.

"Many of the messages posted on Senator Beyak's website are deeply offensive to Canadians. They can only serve to set back the much-needed reconciliation of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians," Woo said in an emailed statement.

The group of Independent senators have also called on the chair of the committee on internal economy, budgets and administration to make time for a discussion at its next meeting on whether such comments hosted by a Senate domain and paid for by public funds constitutes a misuse of Senate resources.

Yolande James, Martin Patriquin, Rick Anderson and Kathleen Monk discuss 13:37

"We do pay a lot of attention to the freedom of expression of senators and parliamentary privilege," said Woo.

"But we do operate within a code of ethics and governance practices, including the proper use of public resources." 

Campaign calling for her resignation launched

Woo stressed that Beyak is a non-affiliated senator and would have to ask to join their Independent Senators Group.

"Her views are not shared, I can speak very confidently, they are not shared by the overwhelming majority, probably all of the other senators in the chamber from whichever political affiliation or parliamentary group. The public should understand that this is an aberration . It does, however, reflect badly on the institution," he said.

On Tuesday the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents close to 50 communities in northern Ontario, launched a website calling on Beyak to resign from the Senate.

"Her lack of knowledge and empathy for the horrors of the residential school experience is offensive to survivors and all the children who were lost. The senator is entitled to her personal opinions, but we are appalled that such inaccurate, racist and spiteful sentiments are being expressed by a representative of Canadian Parliament," said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. 

Fiddler also said petitions will be distributed to all Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.

But Beyak doesn't show any signs of backing down.

She launched a "free speech" section of her Senate website.

"My quests for a wiser use of tax dollars, and a more hopeful life for Canada's Indigenous people, are often taken out of context or deliberately misconstrued to protect the status quo, or to create a negative story," she wrote.

"Together we can find answers. It is time for a 'fresh start' for all Canadians on this important issue."

Beyak denies Scheer spoke to her

Late last week Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he demanded Beyak remove some of the letters of support on her website, but she refused. She then was removed from caucus, Scheer said.

Beyak denies that Scheer asked her to remove letters from her Senate website supporting her view on the residential school system before kicking her out of caucus.

A senior Conservative source later confirmed that neither Scheer, nor anyone from his office, spoke directly with Beyak about the letters.

"​When Mr. Scheer became aware of this, it was instructed through staff to communicate with senior leadership in the Senate that the senator was to be made aware in no uncertain terms that Andrew was personally demanding that these letters be taken down," the source said. ​"It was Larry Smith's office that spoke to her."