POLITICS
02/27/2020 16:01 EST

Lynn Beyak Suspended Again Over Racist Letters Despite Last-Ditch Apology

She was ordered in 2019 to apologize and learn about racism. She failed at both.

Sen. Lynn Beyak will be suspended again from the upper chamber while she attempts, for a second time, to complete anti-racism training. 

Senators voted Thursday to accept an ethics committee report that recommends Beyak be suspended without pay for the rest of the parliamentary session. The vote went through “on division,” which means there is no record of which senators voted against it. 

“The privilege of serving in the Senate is contingent on an understanding that there is no place for racism within the institution,” the committee report says. “Senator Beyak’s actions, or inactions, have cast doubt on the integrity of the institution.”

Beyak was first suspended in May 2019 after she refused to delete racist letters she had posted about Indigenous people from her official Senate website. The letters were in support of her much-maligned position that there were “good things” that happened at residential schools that have been “overshadowed.” The episode saw her removed from the Conservative caucus.

Beyak was ordered to apologize and undertake anti-racism training. But she failed at both, the latest committee report says. 

Beyak first issued a curt apology in November 2019. 

It read, in its entirety: “The Senate Ethics Officer, in his report of March 19, 2019, found me in breach of section 7.1 and 7.2 of the Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators and for that I sincerely apologize to all Senators.”

That apology was “not in the spirit and intent” of the order, the Senate committee report says. 

“While your committee is appreciative of Senator Beyak’s acknowledgement of the Senate Ethics Officer’s findings, it cannot accept an apology that fails to show awareness of the wrong, fails to accept responsibility for the wrong, fails to sincerely apologize, fails to atone for past actions and fails to commit to take action in order to rectify the situation … Your committee is concerned that no apology was made to Indigenous peoples.”

Chris Wattie/Canadian Press
Sen. Lynn Beyak waits for the Throne Speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 2019.

Beyak signed up for an educational program about the racism Indigenous people face in Canada, but the trainer reported that she “failed to exhibit any willingness to learn,” the ethics committee says.

“The committee was hopeful that a new understanding of Canada’s history might change Senator Beyak’s contextual comprehension of her conduct and why it was unbecoming of a senator and the Senate. It is clear to your committee that this did not happen.”

Beyak took a second crack at apologizing Tuesday, one day before senators were expected to vote on her additional suspension. 

“After deep and careful reflection, I have come to the view that the posting of offensive and hurtful letters to a Senate public website was wrong and ill-considered,” she said. 

I don’t think I’m ready to accept this apology.Garnet Angeconeb

One residential school survivor, who met with Beyak after her comments about the schools in 2017, told HuffPost Canada that the second apology was not enough. 

“I don’t think I’m ready to accept this apology,” Garnet Angeconeb said Wednesday. “I think she should sincerely submit her resignation and move on.”

Beyak will not comment on the suspension or controversy caused by her behaviour until all of the committee’s recommendations have been fulfilled, her office told HuffPost by email Thursday.

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