OTTAWA — Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier says he's happy to count Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak among his supporters, despite comments she's made about some "good" coming out of Canada's residential schools.
Late Wednesday, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose removed Beyak from the Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples, but stopped short of kicking her out of caucus.
A spokesman says Ambrose has been clear Beyak's views don't reflect the Conservative party's position — a sentiment Bernier echoed earlier this week in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier says he's happy to count Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak among his supporters. (Photo: Reuters)
Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent six years examining the legacy of the government-funded, church-operated schools, infamous hotbeds of abuse and mistreatment that operated from the 1870s to 1996.
Bernier called the schools a dark part of Canada's history, and said he stands by the decision to remove Beyak from the committee.
But the former Conservative cabinet minister is defending her right to express her opinion.
"I think political correctness has gone a bit overboard," Bernier said in a statement today.
"As parliamentarians, we are allowed to have different views and to debate them. And I'm happy to have the senator's endorsement."
For her part, Beyak refused to speak to reporters Thursday.
Early last month, she told the Senate that she believed the schools were not all bad.
"I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports."
"I think political correctness has gone a bit overboard."
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has called the comments unfortunate and misguided, calling them proof of a need to educate Canadians about the long-standing legacy of the schools.
Earlier this week, Sen. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, who sits on the aboriginal committee, said she was "shocked and dismayed" by her Senate colleague's remarks.
She said she would boycott the committee's meetings as long as Beyak remained a member.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has also called for Beyak to be removed from the committee.