Weak apology, trouble on race relations course could mean resuspension for Senator

Feb 5 2020, 3:29 am

Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak is once again facing suspension in the wake of an ethics committee recommending she retake a course meant to educate her on the history between Canada’s government and its indigenous population.

The recommendation comes after instructors wrote to say she failed to meaningfully engage with the content and the committee found her apology lacking.

After being suspended from the Red Chamber in 2019, after it was found Beyak had posted five emails containing racist comments about First Nations people to her webpage, she was suspended without pay until a variety of conditions were met.

Among the requirements sent to the Senate Ethics Officer (SEO) was the need to complete an “educational program related to racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada
and the history of Crown-Indigenous Relations,” within 30 days of the recommendations being made. The courses would be paid for at her own expense and required to be pre-approved by the ethics officer.

Opting to take two courses — one online and one in a classroom setting — through the Toronto branch of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, as well as two additional courses not required to end her suspension, the instructors report that she did attend all the classes, but say that statements made before and during the programs demonstrated her failure to meet the learning objectives, according to a letter sent to the SEO by the school’s training coordinator.

It was also in this evaluation to the SEO that instructors outlined that prior to the first course, Beyak had identified herself as Metis and “constantly referred to her indigeneity” throughout the course and claimed that racism did not exist in her Ontario hometown.

“Senator Beyek explained that her Metis identity resulted from her family’s adoption of an Indigenous child (her adopted sister),” wrote Trainer Nicole Meawasige to the SEO. “The Senator’s understanding and presentation of her Metis identity were flagged as a concern by the trainers.”

Her interest in the course was also called into question in the letters evaluating her performance. It is claimed that she did not participate in group discussions on subjects like the Indian Act, residential schools, and the reserve system.

“Beyak’s consistent lack of participation and engagement with the content offered during the training is a concern,” Meawasige wrote. “The Senator was not invested in conversations, indifferent to the content of the training, and observably disengaged from discussions on how to work towards reconciliation and build healthy urban Indigenous communities.”

Apology missed the mark

Another significant point of contention was Beyak’s apology, one of five recommendations handed down in order for her to be restored to the senate. While an apology was issued, it fails to mention indigenous people; the text only includes reference to her colleagues.

Office of the Senate Ethics Officer

“The apology leaves doubt as to whether Senator Beyak recognizes that the conduct at issue was not wrong, merely because the Senate Ethics Officer determined there was a violation of the Code, but because it constituted conduct unbecoming of a senator,” wrote the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators.

“[The committee] 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.”

The report concludes by recommending that Beyak once again be suspended without pay, complete another training program on race relations with a specific focus on indigenous issues, and upon completion issue an apology to be published in Journals of the Senate.

Daily Hive attempted to contact the office of Senator Lynn Beyak for comment but did not hear back by time of publication. 

Peter SmithPeter Smith

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