Senate ethics committee recommends rescinding suspension of Senator Lynn Beyak
June 23, 2020
The Senate should rescind the suspension of Senator Lynn Beyak ordered in February, says the standing committee on ethics and conflict of interest for senators.
The recommendation is the latest development in a drawn-out controversy for the Ontario senator who posted letters to her website that the Senate committee found contained racist content.
In a report released on Monday, the ethics committee issued new recommendations to the Senate including that its standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration take any appropriate actions to facilitate her return and that pensionable service for Ms. Beyak be reinstated when its report is adopted by the chamber.
It will now be up to the Senate to determine what happens to Ms. Beyak, who is not currently receiving Senate resources.
At the end of February, the Senate voted to suspend Ms. Beyak for a second time after it approved a previous ethics committee report on her conduct. The report recommended she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, that she apologize and that she participate in educational programs.
In its latest report, the ethics committee said it accepts findings from the Senate Ethics Officer and that extensive efforts were undertaken to facilitate educational training for Ms. Beyak despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee also pointed to a recent apology letter from Ms. Beyak, saying it believes it demonstrates a clearer understanding of her role as a senator in representing and promoting minority rights.
“While it will be for all senators to judge its sufficiency, your committee is satisfied that, in her letter of apology, Senator Beyak adequately acknowledges and understands the impact of her conduct and offers thoughtful reflection on her educational experience and what she has learned as a result,” the committee wrote.
The committee chair, Senator Murray Sinclair, told The Globe and Mail on Monday that all senators will have a right to debate the latest recommendations of the committee and to vote on whether to accept the report.
“I think at this point in time the real question is going to be what will the chamber do with the report?” he said.
Some senators still feel strongly that she should not be entitled to continue as a senator, he added, saying he expects movement to have a full debate in the chamber.
Earlier this month, Ms. Beyak apologized to Indigenous peoples and senators for the hurt she caused by posting letters to her website deemed to contain racist content.
“Senator Beyak has acknowledged the wrongs of her past conduct and has committed herself to improvement.”
In a letter to the Clerk of the Senate dated June 5, Ms. Beyak insisted that she never intended to hurt anyone and that she wants to “apologize directly and sincerely to Indigenous peoples, to the Senate and to my fellow senators, and to the Canadians we all represent for the hurt I have caused.”
Ms. Beyak also said that she has come to appreciate the importance of representing and upholding minority rights in Canada through the help an “exceptional education process.”
“The education I received taught me many new concepts and an essential, further understanding of history,” she said in the letter.
Outside of the Red Chamber, Ms. Beyak has faced calls to resign from Indigenous leaders, such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who have said her actions have been racist.
Ms. Beyak is a former member of the Conservative caucus who was suspended without pay in the spring of 2019, after she refused to remove the letters from her website. The suspension came to an end when Parliament dissolved for the federal election last fall.
The significant harms suffered at Canada’s residential schools, as well as their continuing legacy and connection to persistent suffering, were documented in the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that was released five years ago. Mr. Sinclair chaired that commission before becoming a senator.