By Chris Marchand
The fallout from the City of Dryden’s association with Senator Lynn Beyak and son Nick Beyak continued to rage like a winter storm last week on both local and national stages.
Senator Beyak was dismissed from the National Conservative Caucus, Jan. 4 for posting letters of support deemed racist, following 10 months of controversy over comments about Indian Residential Schools and First Nations Governance.
The City of Dryden became embroiled in the controversy when the Senator’s son, Nick Beyak — also a city councillor — spoke in defence of his mother and her commentary to the CBC earlier this month.
A mid-week statement from City Hall commented on the importance of ‘inclusiveness’ in the community, though did not directly acknowledge the controversy.
On Jan. 12 Mayor Greg Wilson received a letter from Chief and Council of Eagle Lake First Nation that stated councillor Beyak’s support for the Senator’s comments was intolerable in their view.
“…we expect yourself and your Council to publically repudiate Councillor Beyak’s comments,” read the letter from Eagle Lake Chief Arnold Gardner and Council. “In addition, it is our position that you and your Council members expressly have an obligation to remove him from office.”
With three large Indigneous hockey tournaments looming ahead for Dryden in the coming weeks (Little Bands, Northern Bands and Women’s Broomball), Sandy Lake Chief Bart Meekis has reportedly asked Wilson to write a letter to the chiefs of northern communities outlining the City’s position on the matter, as well as make an appearance on Wawatay Radio Network to speak on the issue in advance of the tournaments.
The Little Bands Tournament alone is believed to generate over $1.2 million in economic activity for the community.
While tournament organizers have not commented, social media threads were rife with angry calls to change the host community.
It’s a tough position for Wilson who delivered an emotional, nuanced and carefully worded reponse to the controversy at Monday’s council meeting (which can be read in its entirety here)
Nick Beyak also offered a statement, read in his absence at Monday night’s meeting.
“I would like to make it clear that it was never my intention to cause division, fear, and hate with the comments I have made,” read Nick Beyak’s statement. “Everyday, I try to live my life remembering to be grateful, humble, calm, and loving to all people. Throughout my personal and professional life, doing everything I can to relieve life human suffering and improve my community has been my focus. Conversations are sometimes difficult and stir strong emotions on all sides. I have reached out to those who have taken issue with my comments, and I look forward to meeting with them in person in an effort to live together with mutual respect and kindness.”
The Kenora Riding’s Member of Parliament Bob Nault spoke out again as he has in the past on the Senator’s most recent brush with controversy call he attempts to reframe history unacceptable.
“As I have previously stated, Senator Beyak is grossly mistaken as she continues trying to defend her misinformed views about Indigenous peoples and residential school survivors. There is absolutely no defense or justification for the harm and injustice she is causing,” said Nault. “As the Member of Parliament for the Kenora riding, with 42 First Nation communities, the heartbreaking stories I have heard throughout the years have negatively impacted generations of First Nations people. Senator Beyak’s decision to selectively publish only letters of support regarding residential schools on her website is unacceptable.
“Having finally been removed from the Conservative National Caucus by the Leader of the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, I strongly encourage Senator Beyak to seriously re-evaluate her capacity to represent her constituents and step down.”