Senate votes to suspend Lynn Beyak without pay for rest of parliamentary session
OTTAWA – Sen. Lynn Beyak has been suspended without pay from the Senate for the remainder of this parliamentary session after refusing to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from her website.
Senators voted to remove her on Thursday, following recommendations from the Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators Committee.
“Your committee finds Senator Beyak’s conduct wanting in several ways, including: her failure to recognize – or decision not to acknowledge – that the content of the letters in question is racist,” said the committee report released on April 30.
The suspension only applies to the remaining six weeks of the current session, meaning she will be able to return to her seat in the upper chamber when a new parliamentary session begins after the Oct. 21 federal election.
Though, there is potential for future measures should she not come into compliance on the host of measures that her Senate peers are recommending.
In addition to Beyak’s suspension, the committee recommended that:
- Unless she does it herself, Senate administration remove the five letters found to have racist content;
- Beyak attend educational programs about racism towards Indigenous people and the history of Crown-Indigenous relations, at her own expense;
- The Clerk of the Senate brief her on her role and responsibilities as a senator and the limitations of that, at her own expense; and
- That she apologize to the Senate in writing and that apology be made public on the main Senate web page.
- That she not be reimbursed for any living or travel expenses; and that she not be able to claim any other services, telecommunications costs or benefits during her suspension.
“Your committee is of the view that suspension is particularly appropriate where the breach of the Code is such that the Senator whose conduct is at issue would benefit from time away from the Senate to gain further perspective,” the committee report stated. It also references their “profound disappointment” with Beyak’s conduct, “which reflects negatively on her, all senators, and the Senate as a whole.”
Beyak spoke in the Senate prior to the vote, and implored her colleagues to reject the recommendations.
Her letters have been a point of controversy for over a year, after facing considerable backlash from Indigenous groups and the broader Canadian public for declaring that “some good” came from Canada’s residential schools. She has also suggested that First Nations should “trade in” their status cards for Canadian citizenship. Indigenous people who were born in Canada are Canadian citizens.
The notes deemed to be particularly problematic are among around 100 letters Beyak posted in defence of her position on Indigenous history and rights. It appears that she has resumed her practice of posting similar material. Within the last few weeks Beyak had added two new letters to her web page; one titled “Whiteout” from a Winnipeg man who raises questions about “name changing based on hurt feelings.” The other, about Orange Shirt Day—focused on the experience of students at residential schools—thanks her for “drawing attention to the other side of the story of residential schools.”
She was removed from the Conservative caucus for refusing to remove the comments from her Senate-funded web page.