By Michael Christianson
Senator Lynn Beyak was removed from the Senate’s Aboriginal People’s committee last week in the continuing fallout from comments she made about residential schools.
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said she does not agree with Beyak’s comments and that they do not reflect the position of the Conservative Party.
Kenora MP Bob Nault also saw it as the right move.
“I agree with Rona Ambrose’s decision to remove Senator Beyak from the Aboriginal Peoples Committee,” Nault said in a statement. “Senator Beyak is grossly misinformed about the horrific impacts that the residential school system has had on generations of First Nations people, and to have her continue to sit on the committee would be an injustice to those whom the committee is meant to serve.”
Residential school survivor and Order of Canada recipient Garnet Angeconeb said it was a step in the right direction for reconciliation.
“I was encouraged by the leadership of her party to see fit she was removed from the aboriginal people’s committee,” said Angeconeb.”This issue has been dragging on for so long something had to give.”
In a statement Senator Beyak held her ground blaming a ‘vocal minority that takes offence whenever a point of view is raised that does not align with their own.’
“Political correctness is stifling opinion and thoughtful conversation that we must be allowed to have if we are to truly improve our great country. For me to lose my position on the Aboriginal Peoples Committee for complimenting the work of nurses, teachers, foster families and legions of other decent, caring Canadians – along with highlighting inspiring stories spoken by Aboriginal people themselves – is a serious threat to freedom of speech,” her statement read.
Angeconeb said he himself still learning the true extent of the impact residential schools had on students.
“As a survivor I know there has been extensive work done by many people in this country to look at and study residential school legacy. The Truth and Reconciliation committee heard a lot of stories, a lot of testimonies, a lot of evidence, a lot of information was sought and researched that yes this is a really sad and unfortunate part of our history in Canada; they verified a lot of those stories and it seems to me that Senator Beyak was going against the grain of the movement on healing and reconciliation,” said Angeconeb. “I do respect the fact that people are entitled to their opinions but at the same time I think Senator Beyak went overboard saying she didn’t need any more education on the residential school issue, that she suffered alongside survivors. You have to understand first hand what this was really all about, to say something like suffered is a little too strong, if she used a word like empathize that’s a different situation.”