Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A picture of Sen. Lynn Beyak on a display outside the Senate, in Ottawa, on Sept. 21, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak is leaving the upper chamber three years before her mandatory retirement and defiantly standing by her views on residential schools on her way out.

Named to the Senate on the advice of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013, she says she was committed to serving just eight years.

That is the term limit that would have been imposed on senators under the Harper government’s original plan to have an elected Senate, which never came to fruition.

Story continues below advertisement

Thirty other senators named on the advice of Mr. Harper are still in the Senate and all but one – Alberta Senator Scott Tannas – have now been there more than eight years.

Announcing her early retirement Monday, Ms. Beyak said she stands by her controversial statements on residential schools, which played a role in her being ousted from the Conservative caucus and suspended from the upper chamber.

“Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement,” she wrote.

“Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.”

Ms. Beyak got into trouble for publishing derogatory letters about Indigenous people on her website. They were in response to a speech she gave in 2017 about the move to rename the building housing the Prime Minister’s Office on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa, which at that time was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, who was involved in the residential school system.

In that speech, Ms. Beyak argued residential schools had done good for Indigenous children, although many suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition in them after being forcibly removed from their homes and communities. The schools were operated by churches and funded by the federal government.

The Senate’s ethics officer, Pierre Legault, concluded in March, 2019, that five of the letters in particular contained racist content. Ms. Beyak, who was kicked out of the Conservative caucus over the matter, was suspended without pay from the Senate in May, 2019.

Story continues below advertisement

She refused for almost a year to delete the letters, casting herself as a champion of free speech and a victim of political correctness.

They were finally deleted from her website by the Senate administration.

She eventually apologized and agreed to take cultural sensitivity training, but the ethics committee deemed the initial apology to be perfunctory and the training a fiasco.

Ms. Beyak’s suspension ended automatically when Parliament dissolved for the 2019 federal election. The Senate voted in February, 2020, to suspend her again because while she had finally offered a more profuse apology, she still hadn’t completed an anti-racism course.

Once she did that, the committee finally recommended in June that Ms. Beyak be reinstated, but the wider Senate was still debating the committee’s report when it broke for the summer and then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament.

That meant her suspension was lifted automatically and she was reinstated.

Story continues below advertisement

In December, Senator Mary Jane McCallum, a member of the Independent Senators Group, introduced a motion calling for Ms. Beyak’s expulsion from the chamber. It was not debated before senators paused for the holidays. The Senate resumes sitting Feb. 2.

In her official letter of retirement to the Senate Monday, Ms. Beyak defended both her 2017 speech and her choice to share the letters she received.

She wrote she was attacked by “those with an agenda for power and control, and an aversion to honest debate,” with the help of some in the media.

“The fact that a senator dared to speak the opinions of millions of Canadians frightened those same few people, and their fear has been evident every day since, as they have constantly attacked me in Ottawa with unconstitutional motions and costly inquiries, all in an effort to stifle freedom of expression,” she wrote.

“Not only has it been my duty as a senator (who constitutionally cannot be expelled), but it has been my privilege, to weather those attacks on behalf of Canadians who value freedom of expression,” she continued. “I will treasure the many thousands of letters I have received from all across the country in support of my efforts for the rest of my life.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies