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  • Beyak says she is experiencing persecution over freedom of speech.

    Beyak says she is experiencing persecution over freedom of speech. | Photo: Senate of Canada

Published 10 May 2019

The ethics commissioner called for Beyak's suspension after determining that her letters, which referred to Indigenous people as lazy, whiny and "milking" the system, were racist.

Racist statements towards Indigenous people made by Canadian Senator Lynn Beyak, on her website, have resulted in her suspension without pay from the Senate after she refused to remove them. 

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The ethics commissioner called for Beyak's suspension after determining that her letters, which referred to Indigenous people as lazy, whiny and "milking" the system, were racist. The commissioner also advised Beyak to participate in educational programs to address her racist attitude towards Indigenous Canadians. 

Beyak countered that the letters are nothing more than her showing support for a prevalent debate in 2018 as to whether residential schools were adequately catering to the specific needs of Indigenous students. The senator, as a result, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus last year due to the same letters.

Beyak refers to her comments as "edgy and opinionated" and also claims that her comments "enriched" the Senate's reputation, saying that "many of the letters [sent to her from Canadians] spoke of the pride and respect for the Senate and for me because of the dignity, honor, integrity I bring to the Senate to my honesty and consistency."

Despite the backlash, Beyak says that the letters are not racist, and claimed to be experiencing persecution over freedom of speech. In a 15-minute address to the Red Chamber Thursday, the senator claimed that "parliamentarians have not had their freedom of expression threatened like this since the events that led to the enactment of the Bill of Rights by the English Parliament on December 16, 1689."

The suspension will last until the end of the current Parliament, after which Beyak will return to her Senate seat at the beginning of the new session on October 21.

The decision has received praise from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Indigenous Senator Lillian Dyck, who remarked that she was not surprised by Beyak's defensive speech.

"There are two of us Indigenous senators that sit right across from her [in the chamber] and it was a little disturbing to every day have to face her, look at her, and think the kind of things that she posted on her website were, in my mind, terrible — and she couldn't see that" Dyck recalled.

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