THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3) Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh are calling for the resignation of the Hon. Lynn Beyak as a member of the Senate of Canada following repeated statements by the Senator in defense of the Indian Residential School system.
“Senator Beyak’s repeated comments defending the Indian Residential School system are a national insult and unacceptable for a member of the Senate of Canada. Her callous dismissal of the horrors of the Residential School experience is unbefitting a member of the Senate, and today we join the growing calls for her immediate resignation,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Her misguided statements, including comparisons of her suffering to those who were forced to attend Residential Schools, are an insult to Survivors and all the children who were lost. This makes a mockery of the Government of Canada’s efforts to move toward reconciliation.”
During debate on March 7, 2017, the Senator stated that an “abundance of good” has come from the Residential School system, and that the schools were “well-intentioned” and “mistakes” should not overshadow “good things” that happened.
Since then, the Senator has rebuked pleas for her to learn more about the horrors of Residential Schools, claiming to have ‘suffered’ with those who attended the schools, and purporting ‘shining examples from sea to sea of people who owe their lives to the schools’.
“We find the comments made by Senator Lynn Beyak to be offensive and ignorant of the facts in history that our people still struggle with today. It also comes at the expense of an open dialogue with Canadians and First Nations. We are building partnerships with mainstream Canadians based on inclusion, equitable partnerships and education. This clearly shows a lack of sensitivity by the Senator with respect to the Indian Residential School experience and are requesting that she resign her position immediately,” said GCT#3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh.
As expressed in the Government of Canada’s historic apology on June 11, 2008, the primary objectives of the Indian Residential School system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture: to ‘kill the Indian in the child’.
The apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Senator Beyak in 2013, acknowledged that mistakes were not only made at Residential Schools; the entire system, and the rationale behind it, was a mistake: ‘There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again’.
NAN and GCT#3 are especially dismayed that a member of the Senate hailing from northwestern Ontario, an area spanning NAN and GCT#3 territory with one of the highest concentrations of Residential Schools in Canada, appears to be oblivious to the devastating legacy of these institutions, and the intergeneration effects they continue to have in First Nation communities.
The Government of Canada has recognized that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. NAN and GCT#3 are deeply saddened that a member of the Senate either disagrees with this or cannot accept it.