Sen. Lynn Beyak remains defiant in keeping ‘racist’ letters about residential schools up on her Senate website and says she was never told to take them down by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“Contrary to his statement, that he asked me to remove content and I refused, neither I nor my staff ever spoke with Andrew Scheer or anyone from his office, at any time,” said Beyak in a statement Monday.
Scheer said last week he demanded Beyak to remove about 100 “support letters” of her drive to show the good Indian residential schools did and other Indigenous issues.
When she refused, he kicked her out of the Conservative caucus, making her an independent senator.
“I demanded Senator Beyak remove this content from her website. She refused,” Scheer said.
Scheer mentioned one comment in a letter was particularly offensive.
“To suggest that indigenous Canadians are lazy compared to other Canadians, is simply racist,” he said.
Beyak said the letters posted are not racist.
“Talking points from his office also declared: ‘Senator Beyak admitted that she intentionally posted racist correspondence about Indigenous Canadians to her Parliamentary website,’ said Beyak. “That statement is completely false. I would never say or do such a thing.”
She added she learned she was getting booted from caucus through a media release from Scheer’s office.
That aside, Beyak believes her website, and the letters, provide a platform for free speech.
“Canadians can read and decide for themselves what is relevant and helpful for a fresh start for those Indigenous people who still suffer, and who live in hopelessness and poverty with inadequate housing and dirty water,” she said.
“Discerning citizens don’t need government to tell them what is allegedly racist.”
Fellow senator Lillian Dyck said last week the letters could lead to criminal charged for hate speech.
“I looked it up,” Dyck told APTN News Friday. “Hate speech is communicating statements in public that incite hatred against any identifiable group.
“Someone could look into this…Check all the letters and make a determination as to whether it met the high standard for hate speech. She could be charged.”
Dyck is from the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan and chair of the Aboriginal Peoples committee. Beyak was removed from that committee last year when she expressed support for the schools.
Scheer also said last week he first learned of the letters Jan. 2 but they had been on Beyak’s website for several months.
An email dated September 15 from a residential school survivor provided to APTN News, indicates that Scheer’s office was tipped off then about the “support letters.”
Sen. Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate was also sent the email.
“I am disappointed that my email back in September was ignored,” said Garnet Angeconeb. “They knew all along she had those ‘support letters’ on her Parliamentary website.”
Angeconeb is just one of many who believe Beyak’s letters and stance on residential schools are racist.
A spokesman for Scheer said his office gets 1,000 to 2,500 “pieces of correspondence” a week and it usually takes four to six months for people to get a response.
“We have about four or five staff members who are tasked with strictly doing that,” said Jake Enwright. “They work very, very hard to answer these inquiries as quickly as possible.”
Enwright maintained Scheer learned of the letters Jan. 2 and that Angeconeb’s email was in the que to receive a response.