'Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship,' Sen. Beyak says to First Nations
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 3:54PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 14, 2017 12:06PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Canada's minister for Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs is slamming Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak for saying that First Nations should “trade in” their status cards for a Canadian citizenship.
Carolyn Bennett says Beyak's suggestion is "simply offensive."
"I am deeply disappointed that Senator Lynn Beyak continues to provide these uninformed and simply offensive comments for issues which she clearly doesn't understand," said Bennett in a statement to CTV News.
Beyak, who came under fire earlier this year for her remarks about Indigenous people, made the comments in an open letter on her Senate website on Sept. 1.
"None of us are leaving, so let’s stop the guilt and blame and find a way to live together and share. Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship, with a fair and negotiated payout to each Indigenous man, woman and child in Canada, to settle all the outstanding land claims and treaties, and move forward together just like the leaders already do in Ottawa," Beyak wrote.
Indigenous people who were born in Canada are Canadian citizens.
In the letter, the Ontario senator also says that all Canadians are free to "preserve their cultures in their own communities, on their own time, with their own dime."
The letter was posted in response to the federal government’s decision to split Indigenous Affairs into two new departments.
Bennett, who is now one of the two ministers responsible for Indigenous issues at the federal level, said Beyak still has a lot to learn.
"Once again we suggest she sit down and listen to some of the survivors of residential schools. They have a great deal to teach her," Bennett said.
In a statement to CTV News, Conservative Senator Larry Smith said the caucus does not share Beyak’s views.
“We have taken additional steps to address Senator Beyak’s ongoing role within our Caucus,” he said.
The Conservatives would not clarify whether or not they plan to kick Beyak out of caucus.
Beyak was booted from the Senate Committee on Aboriginal People last spring after saying there were positives that came from residential schools.
In the letter, Beyak also doubles down on her comments about residential schools, and wades into the debate on whether to rename buildings and landmarks named after Canadians associated with residential schools.
"Our ancestors, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, did the best they could with the tools they had. It was a different era with unique challenges. Like us, they were imperfect human beings, working together for the betterment of all. Who are we to judge on today’s standards? Sir John A. Macdonald’s role in the founding of Canada is significant," she wrote.
The senator said Wednesday that her letter stands for itself and she will not comment further.