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Senator Beyak and government racism

Valerie Lannon

September 23, 2017

In April 2017 we reported on Tory Senator Lynn Beyak’s remarks in the Senate where she claimed that residential schools were actually of benefit to Indigenous peoples. She was roundly denounced at that time by fellow Senators, grassroots Indigenous peoples, even the Anglican Church. While she was removed from the Senate’s Aboriginal Committee, the Tories would only chide her for “sending the wrong message.”

Tory racism

Unfortunately she is back with more of the same trash, facing even more calls for her resignation (including from the mayor of Winnipeg), yet the Tories continue to put up with her, leaving her in caucus.  Under the current large amount of pressure, they finally removed her from her various Senate committees.

This time around she said that Indigenous peoples should give up their status cards in exchange for citizenship (except that they already have citizenship!).“Let’s stop the guilt and blame and find a way to live together and share… All Canadians are then free to preserve their cultures in their own communities, on their own time, with their own dime,” she stated.

In 1920, Beyak’s Tory forefather Duncan Campbell Scott headed the Indian Residential School system, stating his goal was “to get rid of the Indian problem.” Later we saw Stephen Harper reject Indigenous sovereignty by supporting corporate control of the resources on Indigenous territories, i.e. Turtle Island/North America. While Bayek calls for the end of the hugely unpopular Indian Act, she does so out of a desire to see assimilation, not Indigenous sovereignty.

Liberal racism

But lest we get fixated on Beyak and Tory injustices to Indigenous peoples, don’t overlook the history of Liberal efforts at assimilation, most notably in the infamous 1969 “White Paper” drafted by Pierre Trudeau’s government—which sparked the Red Power movement.

Today, Trudeau’s son continues the smarmy Liberal habit of saying one thing  - “I promise you that I will be your partner in the years to come, and hope that you will be mine” – and doing the opposite - by approving pipelines despite Indigenous opposition, failing to comply with Human Rights Commission rulings ordering the government to equitably fund child and family services in First Nations communities, and completely screwing up the needed inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Pollution connection

It is bad enough that Beyak defends residential schools. But she hails from Dryden Ontario, around the home of Asubpeeschoseewagong - the Grassy Narrows First Nation, the same community that has conducted a 40-plus year battle to have industrial mercury removed from their food source, the Wabigoon River. Where was Beyak in fighting for this Nation’s rights to clean water and a safe food source?

Respect sovereignty

As Indigenous author Charnel Anderson noted, “If you (Bayek) are as invested in finding a solution as your letter suggests, you should step aside and let a First Nations person take your place. Let's get more First Nations at the table and let them decide what is best for themselves for a change.” 

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