Suspended Senator Lynn Beyak is apologizing to Indigenous peoples and senators for the hurt she caused by posting letters to her website that a Senate committee deemed to contain racist content.
In a letter to the Clerk of the Senate obtained by The Globe and Mail, Ms. Beyak insists that she never intended to hurt anyone and that she wants to “apologize directly and sincerely to Indigenous peoples, to the Senate and to my fellow senators, and to the Canadians we all represent for the hurt I have caused.”
Ms. Beyak, who does not currently have access to Senate resources during her suspension, has faced calls to resign from Indigenous leaders, such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who have said her actions have been racist.
In January, the Senate’s standing committee on ethics and conflict of interest for senators issued a report on Ms. Beyak’s conduct that contained recommendations including that she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, that she apologize and that she participate in educational programs.
“Senator Beyak’s actions, or inactions, have cast doubt on the integrity of the institution, which is to the detriment of her colleagues, the Senate and Canadians,” the report said.
The Red Chamber voted at the end of February to suspend her for a second time over the letters and it approved the ethics committee’s report.
Ms. Beyak, who is a former member of the Conservative caucus, was suspended without pay in the spring of 2019 after she refused to remove the letters from her website. The suspension ended, however, when Parliament dissolved in the fall for the federal election.
In her letter to the Clerk of the Senate, dated June 5, Ms. Beyak said she acknowledges that posting the letters to her website caused pain and hurt to Indigenous people and “adversely impacted my Senate colleagues and the institution of the Senate.”
She also said that the Senate Ethics Officer gave comprehensive reasons as to why he found her in breach of sections of the code of ethics and conflict of interest for senators, adding she fully accepted his findings.
“After deep and careful reflection, I acknowledge that the posting of letters from Canadians – some with hurtful comments – to a Senate public website in the name of free speech was wrong and ill-considered, and my insistence on leaving them up was also wrong,” she said.
Ms. Beyak also said that she has come to appreciate the importance of representing and upholding minority rights in Canada through the help an “exceptional education process.”
“The education I received taught me many new concepts and an essential, further understanding of history,” she said.
The office of the chair of the ethics committee, Senator Murray Sinclair, confirmed on Wednesday that it will make a recommendation to the Senate by June 30, as per an order of the chamber.
It will then be up to the Senate to determine what happens to Ms. Beyak.
The significant harms suffered at Canada’s residential schools, as well as their ongoing legacy and connection to persistent suffering, were documented in the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that was released five years ago. Mr. Sinclair was the chair of that commission before he became a senator.
With reports from The Canadian Press
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