Beyak suspended from Senate over refusal to delete racist letters from website

Lynn Beyak was suspended Thursday without pay

Lynn Beyak cast herself as a defender of free speech and a victim of political correctness moments before senators voted summarily Thursday to suspend her without pay from the Senate for refusing to delete derogatory letters about Indigenous people from her website.

The suspension applies only to the remainder of the current session of Parliament; she’ll be able to resume sitting as a senator when a new session begins following the Oct. 21 federal election.

However, if Beyak continues to refuse to comply with remedial measures recommended by the Senate’s ethics committee, the upper chamber could consider further action against her in the future.

In a report last month, the committee recommended that Beyak be suspended, that she complete, at her own expense, ”educational programs related to racism” towards Indigenous people; apologize in writing to the Senate; and delete the offending letters from her website. It also recommended the Senate administration remove the offending letters if Beyak doesn’t do so herself.

READ MORE: Sen. Lynn Beyak removed from Tory caucus over ‘racist’ post on website

In a speech just prior to the vote on the committee’s report, an emotional Beyak pleaded for just one of her fellow senators to ask that the matter be adjourned until next week to give her colleagues time to consider it more carefully. No one stepped up and a voice vote to adopt the report was taken immediately without further debate. Conservative Sen. Don Plett asked that the vote be “on division,” meaning some senators were opposed but would not insist on standing up one by one for a recorded vote.

Beyak, appointed to the Senate in 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus last year over her refusal to remove the letters from her website.

In her speech, Beyak doubled down on her contention that there was nothing racist in the letters. She said her only sin is refusing to censor the free expression of Canadians and she called the proposed penalty ”totalitarian” and unworthy of a free country like Canada.

“This is a critical day. Either senators are free to speak without fear of reprisal or we are not,” she told the Senate.

“The only conduct or action that is condemned is my refusal to censor Canadians and shut down debate about sensitive issues on which Canadians have expressed various opinions.”

The letters were posted in response to a 2018 speech in which Beyak argued that Indian residential schools did a lot of good for Indigenous children, although many suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition.

READ MORE: B.C. estimates $7 billion laundered in 2018, $5 billion in real estate

The Senate’s ethics officer, Pierre Legault, concluded in March that five of the letters contained racist content, suggesting that Indigenous people are lazy, chronic whiners who are milking the residential-schools issue to get government handouts. Beyak refused to accept Legault’s order that she delete the letters and apologize to the Senate, which prompted the upper house’s ethics committee and finally the Senate as a whole to subsequently take up the matter.

In her speech Thursday, Beyak cited a letter of support she received last week from a retired Manitoba judge who wrote that her “crime was refusing to go along with the politically correct version of the prevailing orthodoxy pertaining to Indigenous issues.”

But Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett tweeted that the issue “was never about political correctness — it’s about racism that hurts people.”

In a post on Twitter, Bennett thanked the Senate for “denouncing racism and for moving to take down the hateful letters” on Beyak’s website.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: West Shore RCMP identify alleged Langford laptop thief

Video footage shows suspect walking out of Staples with a display laptop

UPDATED: Protesters leaving Swartz Bay ferry terminal

Movement in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Downtown Victoria businesses band together to hire private security company following rise in thefts

Lower Johnson Street businesses have had little to no response from VicPD

Number of U-Hauls entering Victoria plummeted in 2019

Data compiled from two million one-way U-Haul transactions

Esquimalt explores creating portage beach for choppy Gorge waters

The portage beach would add safety to the Victoria Waterways Loop

Cariboo Memorial Hospital back to normal after cold weather wreaks havoc

Burst pipes and water leaks cause three different incidents

Site of planned Jumbo Valley ski resort to be protected, managed by First Nations

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Huawei exec’s extradition hearing begins in Canada

China’s foreign ministry complained the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights

Prince Harry: ‘Powerful media’ is why he’s stepping away

Prince Harry and Megan have stepped away from their royal commitments

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Most Read