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Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak fires back at Scheer after removal from caucus

A picture of Sen. Lynn Beyak accompanies other Senators' official portraits on a display outside the Senate on Parliament Hill.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Senator Lynn Beyak is openly questioning Andrew Scheer's leadership and disputing his version of events after the Tory Leader booted her from Conservative caucus for posting what he called "simply racist" content about Indigenous people on her website.

In a fiery statement released on Monday, Ms. Beyak tried to undermine Mr. Scheer as an inexperienced leader who has bowed to political correctness, portraying herself as a defender of free speech – an issue Mr. Scheer took up while running for the party leadership last year.

The now-independent Northern Ontario senator, who was kicked out of Conservative caucus last week, said she only learned of her ouster when Mr. Scheer released a late-night statement to the media.

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She said neither Mr. Scheer nor anyone from his office told her to take down a letter from her website that contained comments that Mr. Scheer, opposition MPs and Indigenous advocates have called racist and offensive toward Indigenous people. She also denied refusing Mr. Scheer's request to take the content down.

"Contrary to his statement, that he asked me to remove content and I refused, neither I nor my staff ever spoke with Andrew Scheer or anyone from his office, at any time," Ms. Beyak said.

Mr. Scheer's spokesman, Jake Enwright, said he stood by the Tory Leader's statement last week, in which Mr. Scheer said he demanded Ms. Beyak remove the content, and she refused. It was not entirely clear, however, whether Mr. Scheer made the demand personally.

In her statement, Ms. Beyak accused Mr. Scheer of falling for a media-led distraction campaign away from controversies involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, such as the ethical violations for his Aga Khan trips and meeting with former hostage Joshua Boyle, who has been charged with 15 offences.

"A good leader would never have fallen for such a ploy, but when an inexperienced leader wins by a small margin, and does not adequately consider other viewpoints, some wisdom and common sense are lost," Ms. Beyak said.

During the leadership campaign, Mr. Scheer committed himself to the cause of free speech, pledging to remove federal funding from universities and colleges that don't allow a range of views on campus and accusing the Liberals of trying to stop MPs from debating bills in the House of Commons. He recently told The Globe and Mail that Conservatives are more tolerant of people's personal views than the Liberals.

The decision by Mr. Scheer and Conservative Senate Leader Larry Smith to remove Ms. Beyak from caucus came after almost a year of controversy that began when she declared that some good had come from "well-intentioned" workers in residential schools.

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A seven-year inquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the residential school system was a program of assimilation and "cultural genocide." In addition to widespread physical and sexual abuse, the commission report released in late 2015 said as many as 6,000 children died in the crowded schools.

Ms. Beyak later posted more than 100 letters of support for her position on her website, which included comments about a First Nations culture "that will sit and wait until the government gives them stuff."

"Promoting this comment is offensive and unacceptable for a Conservative parliamentarian. To suggest that Indigenous Canadians are lazy compared to other Canadians, is simply racist," Mr. Scheer said in his statement last week.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has said the Senate ethics committee, which can recommend the expulsion of senators, should take a look at Ms. Beyak's actions. Senator Lillian Dyck has also said it is possible that the content of letters posted on Ms. Beyak's parliamentary website constitutes a hate crime.

Ms. Beyak on Monday defended her decision to publicly post the correspondence. "Discerning citizens don't need government to tell them what is allegedly racist," she said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is condemning Justin Trudeau’s handling of controversial vacations, after the prime minister was found to have broken conflict of interest rules. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Trudeau should be reprimanded. The Canadian Press
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