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By Shayla Bradley
As the Senate ethics committee deliberates following the official finding that Drydenite Senator Lynn Beyak breached the Senate’s ethical code, her son Nick, a former city councillor, is reminding people that there is a process in place.
“The process is now it goes to committee,” Nick Beyak said. “That’s one person, the senate ethics officer that came up with that finding. It now goes to committee, for committee to consider the report… that’s the next step. They make a recommendation and that goes to Senate.”
Sen. Beyak is under fire for posting letters of support following a speech during which she defended residential schools. Senate ethics officer Pierre Legault released his report in March, finding that Sen. Beyak breached the code by posting five letters that “contained racist content.”
Legault asked Sen. Beyak to remove the letters from her site, post a formal apology, and complete a cultural sensitivity training course, none of which the senator has agreed to do.
The ethics committee is now obligated to take Legault’s report into consideration, and then report to the Senate with recommended sanctions, if any. The committee can recommend actions such as limiting Sen. Beyak’s right to vote in Senate, or expulsion from the Senate, which would require a confirmation vote.
When the committee reports back to Senate, the information will be released publicly.
In the meantime, as the letters remain published online, many are condemning Sen. Beyak’s actions.
Fort Frances town councillor Douglas Judson called for Sen. Beyak to follow Legault’s recommendations or resign, at a March 25 council meeting. Noting that he was speaking for himself and not for council, Judson said, “Senator Beyak has ties to Fort Frances, and has been touted as another voice for our region in Parliament. In light of recent events, it is difficult to see how that can continue.”
Publishing the letters meant Sen. Beyak gave air and credibility to misinformation and outright hatred, said Judson, adding, “She did so from a place of authority and privilege – one where she ought to have had a full view of the facts – particularly in light of her own history in this region and her involvement in our local school board.”
Judson said racism lives in the region as much as it does anywhere else. By not removing the letters, he said, Sen. Beyak “has continued to besmirch not only the integrity of the Senate, but to embarrass our community, and disrespect the trauma of so many of the people who live here.”
Nick Beyak, Sen. Beyak’s son, a former Dryden town councillor and CAO, and a businessman in both Fort Frances and Dryden, responded to Judson’s comments through a letter to the editor in the Fort Frances Times, in which he questioned Judson’s motivations.
“Everyone who knows Doug, as I do, knows he has high political ambitions. Given these aspirations and his desire to elevate his public profile, I fear that Doug is attempting to [sow] discord in our community and advance his own political agenda instead of working to understand the views and experiences of those who see things differently than he does. Political grandstanding at a local council meeting is not helpful to the community and only poisons the atmosphere. Taking these types of shots at the Senator may serve to raise Doug’s political profile in our area and elsewhere, but this behaviour is very harmful to a reasonable discussion of the issues.”
He highlighted his parents’ devotion to Fort Frances, writing, “Fortunately, actions speak louder than words. The good deeds, kindness, and unselfishness shown by both my parents cannot be diminished by one self-serving and ill-informed town councillor.”
Following the letter’s publication, Beyak, making sure to be clear that he is only speaking for himself and not Sen. Beyak, said he wanted to respond because he thinks Judson’s comments were self serving and irresponsible.
“He referenced the attacks in New Zealand in the same statement that was really focused on Senator Beyak,” he said. “I think that’s beyond irresponsible… Using such a dramatic event of happened in New Zealand and tying the Senator to that in any way is very irresponsible.”
A more appropriate action, said Beyak, would have been writing to the Senator.
“Assume everything he said is true — what is saying all of that uncontested in a Fort Frances town council meeting accomplishing other than raising his profile? If he really cared about what he says he cares about he would write her a letter and say, these are my concerns, and they could possibly have a dialogue… He doesn’t even care about the people and the issue or he would go about it a totally different way instead of grandstanding in a council meeting.”
Reflecting on his own political experience, Beyak said, “I am well aware of what is and isn’t municipal business and that is not municipal business and he knows that.”
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett is another politician making her views about Sen. Beyak’s letters known, recently writing an open letter to the senator asking her to remove the racist letters.
“As Parliamentarians, we have a shared responsibility to help educate Canadians about our country,” she wrote. There are chapters in our history that we were never taught in school. It is our job to learn them, and ensure that the next generation is raised with a complete understanding.”
“The ethics officer deemed your conduct to be “both undignified and dishonourable.” It is also dangerous. With each day these letters remain on your website, hate is given a platform, and survivors are re-traumatized.”
The senator’s refusal to follow Legault’s requests “not only shows disrespect toward the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer, but towards Parliament, and all Canadians,” Bennett wrote. “It is way past time that you abide by the Ethics Officer’s orders. You need to remove the letters and admit you have much to learn about the lived-experiences of Indigenous peoples. You have been asked to apologize for your actions over the last two years, and you must, but not because you have been ordered to. For this apology to offer any healing for Indigenous peoples, it must come from a place of sincere regret.”
Bennett noted that Dryden, Sen. Beyak’s hometown, is actively working to combat inequality and prejudice, pointing out the existence of the Dryden Area Anti-Racism Network (DAARN) and urging Sen. Beyak to meet with DAARN as well as with survivors of residential schools.
Through a spokesperson, DAARN told the Observer, “DAARN does not see [its] role as passing judgement on any person’s identity, beliefs or past experiences. Rather, our mandate is to create a space where people from different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences can come together in an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect to better understand each other, thereby decreasing prejudice of all types, including racism.
“If Senator Beyak wishes to speak to us, we would be happy to do so. If she wishes to be added to our emailing list to be informed of upcoming events, we would be happy to add her name to the list.”
Minister Bennett should understand the ethics committee process, reiterated Nick Beyak. “The only reason Carolyn Bennett would write that letter again is politically motivated.”
“There’s a process to do what’s right. Everyone, including Senator Beyak is following that process.”
As for Judson, he said, “I stand by every single word. I will never apologize for using my voice and platforms to speak out against injustice, harm, hatred, or systemic disadvantage impacting people in our district and Treaty 3 territory. That is my concept of community leadership, and the ethic I bring to public office. Racism and oppression can only be overcome by confronting it every time it rears its head.”