Senator Beyak agrees to meet residential school survivors ... in the summer - APTN NewsAPTN News

Senator Beyak agrees to meet residential school survivors … in the summer

Willow Fiddler
APTN National News
Senator Lynn Beyak says she will meet with leaders and residential school survivors this summer to discuss their “very real” concerns.

Beyak was invited to meet with a Truth and Reconciliation committee from Sioux Lookout after she made comments about residential schools in the Senate almost two weeks ago. The committee, created last year by the municipality in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, said the senator’s remarks hinders healing and relationship building.

Garnet Angeconeb, a residential school survivor who sits on the committee, said he was disappointed and surprised to hear Beyak’s comments which included stating that the remarkable works and good deeds of residential schools are often overshadowed by the negative reports and mistakes.

“We’ve been talking about the issue for so long now, over the last 20 years and there’s been some really high level processes in this country that have done good work to address this issue,” said Angeconeb last week in response to the comments. “So those kinds of views and comments coming from somebody at that level is why I was disappointed and quite frankly surprised.”

Garnet Angeconeb.

Garnet Angeconeb.

First Nations leaders and survivors have expressed similar disappointment in the senator’s comments. NDP MP Romeo Saganash called for her resignation. The Conservative senator, appointed by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013, also sits on the Senate’s Aboriginal Peoples committee. Harper formally apologized on behalf of the government in 2008 for its role in what has been called cultural genocide.

Beyak is from Dryden in northwestern Ontario, where she says she lives among Aboriginal people. An hour drive north from Dryden is Sioux Lookout, a town of approximately 7,000.

“The municipality is more than half Indigenous people, we sit in a service area which is 30,000 Indigenous people and we’re 100 km from Dryden,” said Mayor Doug Lawrence about the town that proclaimed 2017 the year of reconciliation.

Lawrence said their work in truth and reconciliation needs to be productive, positive and supportive of the First Nations people in the region, particularly those in remote access communities.

“They were impacted deeply by residential school, you can see it every day you see the impacts. You also see on a personal level how comments like this hurt, so we wanted to respond to that in a supportive and positive way,” said Lawrence.

Pelican Falls Indian Residential School operated a mere 15 km from town and is now a First Nations-run high school for students from the remote areas. There were eight other residential schools to operate in the region.

Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation said there needs to be more awareness in mainstream society and First Nations.

“We don’t know the full history of residential schools and the legacy that has occurred in our communities as a result of these institutions,” said Bull.

Bull is a survivor and member of the town’s committee.

“The legacy of residential school continues to this day,” he said.

“As a survivor I feel we needed to raise awareness for sure with mainstream society, Canadians as a whole, even my community,” he said.

A statement from Beyak on Mar. 16 said she will not be resigning from the Senate or any of her committees.

In an APTN interview, senator and chair of the Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples Lillian Dyck said she is surprised Beyak hasn’t offered an apology for the hurt caused by her comments.

“Her comments were seen as being ill-informed and insensitive and what I think she should do is apologize. It wouldn’t hurt her to apologize and to say that it wasn’t meant to hurt people,” said Dyck. “Maybe she had good intentions but that’s the whole thing, often times people speak with what they think are good intentions and then they end up saying things that provoke a lot of reaction.”

In an email to Lawrence, Beyak said she has read the TRC report “cover to cover” of which she has several notes. She added that the survivors she’s talked to over the last 50 years prefer to be called “victors over adversity” or “conquerors” and that is what she wishes to discuss with Sioux Lookout’s Truth and Reconciliation committee this summer.

A date for the meeting has yet to be confirmed.

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4 Responses to “Senator Beyak agrees to meet residential school survivors … in the summer”

    shirley wolfe-keller March 21, 2017 at 5:09 am #

    It would be beneficial if the senator heard as well from a granddaughter and niece, namely myself, to share how the hurtful, unknowing, reality my grandmother endured through out the years of her life. lack of information and knowledge of how her 8 year old son died in the residential school as well as her 13 year old daughter also having died in the residential school. Closure didn’t come to my Kokum (grandmother), she past on never knowing what transpired before and during the deaths of her children and afterwards. She made ever opportunity to share this huge loss of her children to her grandchildren, myself, and her sons and daughters, who have all since past on. As shared with me by my Kokum, I in turn share these deaths of my little uncle and auntie, with my children, grandchildren as well as my sisters and brothers and their children. this is not easy has not been easy and will never be easy for us. It is hurts like this that linger on in our lives forever, like it did my Kokum and her family. Unless one was there, you have no clue the hurt, and the tear that leaves a family so desperate to forget or put it aside. it is a genuine hurt that some one could make statements of such as the senator did. need to hear actually what she was implying and what was the basis behind and for the comment. empty and will not allow this fade. Consider one’s hurt before speaking with a run away tongue.

      Bruno Brown March 21, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      Your story is so very sad,Gov.s’ and Church were both involved and trickery was amuk,As time went on conditions on some reserves never improved while some has prospered,however greed is rampant with chief and the people are limited to income, I M.O. Reserves are passe for the good of the future children, our past history has destroyed your culture and almost impossible to repair. Our thought are with you and wish you well.

    George March 21, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    Piss off

    Sandra Leithwood March 21, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Where did she get her information from to think that there was ANY good…my mother was a residential school who barely survived life there and afterwards…families are being ripped apart..our brothers and sisters bring taught how to rape..murder..lie…shown they don’t have to respect anything or anyone…memories being empty … my sisters and brother ended in Sask. CFS care (part of the scoop of the 60’s) .. we were forcibly taken from our father and seperated into 2 foster homes..i heard some stories from my younger siblings about the hurting they went through at the home they were in…3 eldest (myself as the eldest) were placed together..the 1st home was to clean and sexually satisfy the man and son of the home…the second home was ok except for the farmhand who took my sister in the barn..the 3rd home was the worst…so bad I have blocked most of that time out..a couple of memories pop up from that 3rd one but 97% of that time is gone from my memories..we were taught how to clean and satisfy a man…we were given to our mom after that…a mom who now drank who never used to..she smoked…she had boyfriends..she was very diffrent from before..residential school showed me what horrible people they created and the horribleness was carried forward to their own children…WHERE IS THE GOOD PART ???