Lynn Beyak, senator who defended residential school system, announces retirement

Northwestern Ontario Sen. Lynn Beyak will be leaving the Red Chamber, issuing a news release on Monday announcing her decision to retire from the Senate, eight years to the day from her appointment.

Beyak, who was named to the Senate in 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper, came under fire in 2017 for arguing that the country’s residential school system was “well-intentioned” and later refusing to remove letters in her defence, which made derogatory comments against Indigenous people, posted on her official website. 

Many Indigenous children suffered physical and sexual abuse and thousands died of disease and malnutrition at the schools.

In her retirement announcement, Beyak stood behind her comments.

“Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well,” Beyak said in the statement.

“And finally, I have been criticized for offering concerned Canadians a space to comment critically about the Indian Act. My statements and the resulting posts were never meant to offend anyone, and I continue to believe that Indigenous issues are so important to all of us that a frank and honest conversation about them is vital.”

Beyak, who is from Dryden, Ont., was removed from the Conservative caucus over her comments and later suspended without pay from the Senate in May 2019. 

She was recommended by the Senate’s ethics committee to be reinstated after completing anti-racism training and issuing an apology, but a motion was filed last month that could have resulted in expulsion.

Indigenous leaders, including Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, have continually called for her to be removed from office.

In the announcement, Beyak said fundamental to her appointment was her commitment to Senate reform, which included eight-year term limits for senators. 

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