Nunatsiaq Online
LETTERS: Around the Arctic April 18, 2017 - 10:00 am

Lynn Beyak should leave the Senate

“Her statements and her misguided views further denigrate the role of the Senate”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Murray Sinclair, then the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, speaking at the release of the TRC's summary report June 2, 2015 in Ottawa. In the speech, Sinclair said “what took place in residential schools amounts to nothing short of cultural genocide,” provoking a long, loud round of applause from this audience. (FILE PHOTO)
Murray Sinclair, then the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, speaking at the release of the TRC's summary report June 2, 2015 in Ottawa. In the speech, Sinclair said “what took place in residential schools amounts to nothing short of cultural genocide,” provoking a long, loud round of applause from this audience. (FILE PHOTO)

The comments from Sen. Lynn Beyak in recent weeks that take issue with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are nothing short of a despicable, disgraceful attempt to defend the indefensible.

All senators, and in particular the Conservative party, should consider Beyak’s comments as an act that shames the Senate. It shames all those in public life. Her statements and her misguided views further denigrate the role of the Senate and she puts its utility as a “chamber of sober second thought,” into disrepute.

Sen. Beyak observed that the thinking behind the creation of Indian residential schools was “well-intentioned.”

If Lynn Beyak had read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and its calls to action, she would know that the philosophy behind the Indian residential schools was one of assimilation. The government of the day felt they had to “kill the Indian in the child” and they colluded with the churches to set about establishing residential schools to do just that. 

They took children away from their communities, their families, their language and their culture and imposed a set of foreign values on them.  Children weren’t allowed to speak their language: “the language of the devil,” children were told. 

The TRC called this cultural genocide.  The atrocities that took place would be considered a form of terrorism today.  Indeed some 6,000 who were taken from their home at the hands of the government and the churches, never returned home again. 

Other children were used as human guinea pigs in experiments relating to malnutrition. This was a very black, dark era. It is one that forever defaces a country that has always prided itself at home and abroad on fairness and equality. 

Now, under no circumstances would I compare the Holocaust and the Indian Residential Schools with each other. 

However, if someone were to say that Hitler’s treatment of those of Jewish faith, was “well-intentioned and that the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust, overshadowed the good things,” one would certainly be accused of anti-Semitism and be subject to inciting hatred under s. 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and rightly so.

While I fully believe in free speech, I for one feel that the views put forward by Sen. Beyak borders on inciting hatred. There is no place for that in Canada. There should certainly be no place on a Senate committee on Indigenous peoples for someone with views that I can only describe as a glaring example of the alt-right.

Senator Beyak needs to apologize for her comments about Indian residential schools and she needs to take a permanent leave from the Senate thereby doing her part to preserve its integrity as a Canadian democratic institution.

William H. Flowers
Amherst, N.S.

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