One Fort Frances councillor believes Sen. Lynn Beyak should step down if she is not going to use her office to advance the priorities of the region.
Speaking during Monday night’s regular meeting, Coun. Douglas Judson noted the Senate Ethics Officer released its report under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators concerning Sen. Beyak on March 19.
“Sen. Beyak has ties to Fort Frances, and has been touted as another voice for our region in Parliament,” he remarked. “In light of recent events, it is difficult to see how that can continue.”
The Ethics Officer concluded Sen. Beyak had breached Senate rules by posting letters on her Senate website that contained “indisputably racist content,” Coun. Judson noted, who clarified his statements were his own–not council’s–but which he believes are important, timely, and resonate with many members of this community.
“These letters refer to First Nations’ people as ‘milking’ the system, as using the history of residential schools as a crutch for handouts, and otherwise cast doubt on the well-documented history of residential schools, as set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” he said.
Coun. Judson said not only did Sen. Beyak “give air and credibility to the misinformation and outright hatred underlying these letters,” but 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.”
“I recognize that we are all on a personal journey to better understand the unique barriers, history, and social circumstances that disadvantage our neighbours and may give rise to intergenerational harms,” he said.
“Sometimes we make mistakes.
“And in my own community involvement, I believe that ‘safe spaces’ are not spaces for condemning those errors or misjudgments, but for learning from them and moving on with that knowledge,” he added.
“But Sen. Beyak has conceded nothing. In fact, she has doubled down.”
Coun. Judson said the Ethics Officer’s report disclosed that the senator has expressed the view that racism does not exist in Canada.
“She has said that those who say racism exists in our society are seeking to divide Canadians,” he noted. “She has even stated that the Commissioners of the TRC engaged in ‘reverse racism,’ which is a ludicrous claim.”
Coun. Judson said these comments are “completely unacceptable and irresponsible,” when evidence to the contrary can be read in the news every single day right here in Northwestern Ontario and abroad.
“Racism has been identified by two consecutive reports as the cause of botched investigations into the deaths of indigenous young people in Thunder Bay,” he stressed.
“Racist conspiracy theories about immigration rear their head at the ‘United We Roll’ convoy to Ottawa this winter.
“It was race-based hatred, fuelled by untruthful online content, which caused a white man to gun down 50 people at a mosque in New Zealand on March 15–and another far closer to home, in Quebec City, just two years ago,” he added.
“And just [Sunday], I observed a local business owner had taken to posting white supremacist content on social media.
“Racism is alive and well,” Coun. Judson warned. “It lives here as much as anywhere else. And it is being fed by irresponsible political leaders right across this country.”.
As of Monday, it had been six days since the Ethics Officer’s report was released and in that time, Sen. Beyak had not removed the racist letters from her website, he noted.
“And in six days, she 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,” Coun. Judson charged.
“This is playing out at a time when true political leaders in our region–and around tables like this one–are working hard to snuff out hate, to reconcile our differences, and to plot a positive and honest path forward–one envisioned by the treaty relationships which helped found this country.”
Coun. Judson said he is proud to serve on a municipal council that is committed to building a better community for everyone and that is working with its neighbours to achieve those goals.
“But doing so requires that we be uncompromising on our principles of inclusion, human dignity, respect, and our commitment to the facts,” he stressed.
“We are a region in demographic and economic transition, and there are so many priorities that a senator for Northwestern Ontario could use her office to support,” Coun. Judson added.
“Residential school denialism isn’t and shouldn’t be one of them.
“This circus has been a stain on the political character of this region on the national stage,” he argued.
“If the senator will not–finally–face the facts and use her office to advance the priorities of our communities, she should resign,” Coun. Judson concluded.