Politics

Senate ethics committee recommending Lynn Beyak be suspended again

The Senate ethics committee is recommending that Sen. Lynn Beyak be suspended a second time from the upper house because she failed to take her anti-racism training seriously and offered an insufficient apology after posting anti-Indigenous letters on her Senate website.

Committee says Beyak failed to take her anti-racism training seriously

The Senate ethics committee is recommending Lynn Beyak be suspended again for posting anti-Indigenous letters on her website. (CBC)

The Senate ethics committee is recommending that Sen. Lynn Beyak be suspended a second time from the upper house because she failed to take her anti-racism training seriously and offered an insufficient apology after posting anti-Indigenous letters on her Senate website.

Beyak was suspended from the upper house in 2019 after she declined to remove letters from her website that were  widely condemned as racist, and for refusing to apologize for posting them.

Beyak, appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, was removed from the Conservative caucus after she refused to take down the letters at the request of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

At the time, the ethics committee told her what she'd have to do before returning to the Senate chamber in good standing. They directed her to formally apologize in writing and complete anti-racism training, with a particular focus on Indigenous issues, among other remedial measures.

Beyak's suspension ended with the start of the last election. At the time, she told the Senate that she had done all they had asked of her.

But the ethics committee has concluded that she has not adequately addressed the underlining issue that led to her initial suspension: that she doesn't understand the pain she caused by describing Indian residential schools in positive terms and by posting racially-tinged letters to her website defending her position.

The committee is recommending Beyak be suspended, without pay, for the rest of this parliamentary session.

While Beyak completed the prescribed anti-racism training, the committee found she didn't learn much from it.

"The committee was hopeful that a new understanding of Canada's history might change Senator Beyak's contextual comprehension of her conduct and why it was unbecoming of a senator and the Senate," says the committee report. "It is clear to your committee that this did not happen.

"The training provider indicated that Senator Beyak failed to exhibit any willingness to learn and because of this, the training provider did not provide the agreed upon instruction in its entirety."

As for the apology, the committee said it was troubled by the fact that Beyak did not explicitly apologize for the anti-Indigenous content.

"Your committee would have expected a fulsome apology," says the report.

The committee said nothing less than another suspension will make it clear to Beyak just how harmful her actions have been — to Indigenous peoples and to the reputation of the Senate itself.

"The fact that the Senate suspended Senator Beyak — only the fifth suspension in the history of the institution — should have given her pause and prompted deep reflection on what occurred and who was adversely affected by her actions."

While recommending a second suspension, the committee did lay out another path forward for Beyak to return to the chamber.

The committee has directed the Senate Ethics Officer to "identify and approve ... an educational program provider with demonstrated experience in race relations" to provide Beyak with training.

After she completes the training, the committee said it wants the designated trainer to issue a "written and objective evaluation of Sen. Beyak's performance and attendance." The committee can then evaluate Beyak's performance.

The committee also has recommended Beyak issue another apology — this time expressing regret "for the impact of her conduct on Indigenous Canadians as well as the institution." The apology letter should also include "reflections on the education received and indicating what she has learned from this experience."

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