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Senator Lynn Beyak says her removal from the Senate’s Aboriginal Peoples committee for complimenting the work of nurses and teachers who did an “abundance of good” in residential schools is a serious threat against freedom of speech.
“For me to lose my position on the Aboriginal Peoples Committee for complimenting the work of nurses, teachers, foster families and legions of other decent, caring Canadians – along with highlighting inspiring stories spoken by Aboriginal people themselves – is a serious threat to freedom of speech,” said the Conservative senator in a statement Thursday, a day after she was removed on the committee.
Beyak sparked outrage when she spoke in the Senate on March 7 to defend the good work of residential schools that forced over 100,000 Indigenous children into schools where it’s documented many suffered sexual assaults, physical abuse for speaking their language and death.
This is a portion of what Beyak said in the Senate: “I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports. Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.”
The public outcry was immediate and eventually led to her removal from the committee as Beyak refused to apologize.
But on Thursday, Beyak said she was speaking on behalf of Canadians.
“This is a responsibility I take very seriously,” said Beyak in the statement. “Since the announcement regarding my removal from the Aboriginal Peoples Committee yesterday, public and other support has been building and is truly inspiring. ”
She said “political correctness” is getting in the way of “thoughtful conversation” needed to improve the country.
“Too often, on a broad range of issues, a vocal minority cries foul and offence whenever a point of view is raised that does not align with their own,” said Beyak. “Meanwhile the silent majority, who are contributing to this country by working, building and selling things, taking care of their parents and children, are left thinking they are alone.”
She said she will continue to represent these Canadians on Parliament Hill.
Jake Enwright, a spokesperson for interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, said Wednesday Beyak’s position doesn’t represent the Conservative party.
“Ms. Ambrose has been clear that Sen. Beyak’s views do not reflect the Conservative party’s position on residential schools,” Enwright said.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent six years examining the legacy of the government-funded, church-operated schools, infamous hotbeds of abuse and mistreatment that operated from the 1870s to 1996.
The Conservatives were in power in 2008 when the federal government delivered an abject apology in the House of Commons to families and survivors, a fact not lost on Enwright.
“It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who made an historic apology to the victims of residential schools and launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” he said.
Earlier this week, Sen. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, who sits on the Aboriginal People’s committee, said she was, “shocked and dismayed” by her Senate colleague’s remarks.
She said she would boycott the committee’s meetings as long as Beyak remained a member.