Manitoba Senator Mary Jane McCallum has introduced a motion in an attempt to oust her colleague Lynn Beyak from the Red Chamber.
Ms. McCallum said Tuesday that a modern Senate is no place for racism to exist, and her motion is designed to give other senators the opportunity to exercise the right to discipline “one of our own for their misconduct.”
She also said it is designed to bring an end to the drama with Ms. Beyak that has been a “black eye on our esteemed chamber.”
“The continued actions of Senator Beyak have not only brought herself into disrepute but have brought the Senate as a whole into disrepute as well,” she said.
The recommendation is the newest development in a drawn-out controversy for Ms. Beyak, an Ontario senator who posted letters about residential schools to her website that a Senate committee found contained racist content.
The significant harms suffered at Canada’s residential schools, as well as their legacy and connection to persistent suffering, were documented in the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that was released in 2015.
Ms. McCallum, who is a Cree residential school survivor, said Ms. Beyak’s actions have caused immeasurable and sustained pain for countless First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Ms. Beyak has also faced calls to resign from Indigenous leaders, including Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who have called her actions racist.
On Tuesday, Mr. Fiddler said Ms. Beyak has done enough harm and the Senate needs to show leadership and expel her. “Racism in all of its forms needs to be condemned,” he said on Twitter.
Ms. McCallum said the handling of Ms. Beyak in the Senate is an “egregious example of white privilege being exercised within existing colonial systems.”
“The insidious nature of this white privilege is the blindness that it has created with respect to its very existence, as well as its influence across multiple levels of society, including the Senate of Canada,” she said. “Senator Beyak’s actions have sown division in our society.”
Ms. Beyak’s office could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday.
Prior to Parliament being prorogued in August, a report form the standing committee on ethics and conflict of interest for senators was debated on the floor of the Senate.
In the report, the committee recommended that the Red Chamber rescind the suspension of Ms. Beyak ordered last winter. At the end of February, the Senate voted to suspend Ms. Beyak for a second time after it approved a previous ethics committee report on her conduct. The report recommended she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, that she apologize and that she participate in educational programs.
In its June report, the ethics committee said it accepted findings from the Senate ethics officer and that extensive efforts were undertaken to facilitate educational training for Ms. Beyak despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While it will be for all senators to judge its sufficiency, your committee is satisfied that, in her letter of apology, Senator Beyak adequately acknowledges and understands the impact of her conduct and offers thoughtful reflection on her educational experience and what she has learned as a result,” the committee wrote.
Ms. McCallum said Tuesday that the prorogation of Parliament in August removed the resolution process from the hands of senators and resulted in the quiet reinstatement of Ms. Beyak as a senator in good standing.
Garnet Angeconeb, a First Nations residential school survivor and advocate, commended Ms. McCallum for introducing the motion, calling it a courageous and bold move.
Mr. Angeconeb was part of a group of residential school survivors who invited Ms. Beyak to meet in hopes of sharing a better understanding of the harmful experiences and long-standing effects of the residential school system.
He told The Globe and Mail she was condescending and called the meeting a waste of time. He said if Ms. Beyak is asked by her colleagues to resign, it will send a powerful message.
“At a time when we’re addressing racism locally, regionally and nationally, it will send a strong message that Canada has zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour and that it is truly unacceptable.”
Ms. Beyak, who is a former member of the Conservative caucus, was first suspended without pay in the spring of 2019 after she refused to remove the letters from her website. Ms. Beyak’s first suspension ended when Parliament dissolved in the fall for the federal election.
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