(Chief Arnold Gardner of Eagle Lake First Nation.)
The chief of the closest First Nation to Dryden, Ont. wants Nick Beyak removed from city council.
Eagle Lake Chief Arnold Gardner said he’s “deeply disappointed” by comments Beyak make about Indigenous people that “promote division.”
“A councillor holding a public position representing the City of Dryden bears a responsibility to promote unity,” Gardner said in a letter he sent to Dryden Mayor Greg Wilson.
The letter was discussed at Monday night’s council meeting in the northwestern Ontario city.
It condemns him supporting the position of his mother – now-independent Sen. Lynn Beyak – that some good came from Canada’s notorious and racist Indian residential school system.
And opinions Nick Beyak himself shared that Indigenous people are unable to feed, clothe and protect themselves.
The letter points to Nick Beyak’s lack of a public mandate.
“Because Coun. Beyak was appointed mid-term and at no time was voted in by the people of Dryden, we expect yourself and your council members to publicly repudiate (Beyak’s) comments,” Gardner said.
“In addition, it is our position that you and your council members expressly have an obligation to remove him from office.”
Gardner asked for a response by the end of this week, and a meeting with the full council out of respect for their positive relationship to “bring closure to these recent occurrences.”
Nick Beyak was absent from the meeting but left a prepared statement the mayor shared with council.
“The mayor did read a statement from Coun. Beyak which was read into the record,” said Coun. Mary Trist. “Mr. Beyak reiterated that he spoke as a son and not as a councillor.”
Trist, who has spoken out against the Nick Beyaks’ comments, said council cannot remove him as councillor but could ask him to resign.
She said the mayor, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, also spoke about racism, residential schools and freedom of speech.
“He was emotional when he talked about the boy in his school who took his own life,” Trist recalled.
Wilson told council an Indigenous classmate of his in Grade 8 was in foster care and died by suicide.
“It is only decades later that I started to get a faint understanding of the forces behind such tragic events,” he said.
“This kind of result is what happens when people in power try to dictate the lives of others from a distance without understanding or respecting the culture, leadership, economic and social fabric of local communities. Unfortunately, that legacy persists to this day.”
Eagle Lake is an Ojibway community approximately 25 kilometres southwest of Dryden.
Its letter is the latest salvo in a war on words that’s landed the Beyaks in hot water and led to Lynn Beyak’s ouster from the federal Conservative caucus. She remains a senator.
She and her son operate car dealerships in Dryden and Fort Frances. Businesses that are now the target of a boycott by First Nations.
Lynn Beyak is also the subject of an online petition launched by the area tribal government to have her removed from the Senate.
She was widely condemned following a pro-residential school speech last March, and fanned the flames by posting ‘letters of support’ expressing anti-Indigenous sentiments on her Senate website.
She was removed from the Senate’s Aboriginal committee and is now being investigated for potentially violating the Senate’s ethics code.
Gardner wasn’t available for comment.