Just Who Does Senator Beyak Represent?

Canadian Senate

Senators Comments Demonstrate Lack of Empathy and Understanding

Senator Beyak
Senator Beyak

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Senator Beyak has been removed from the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee. The move made by the Interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose came after weeks of concern raised by the Assembly of First Nations, Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, and countless other Indigenous Groups.

The Senator, who represents Northwestern Ontario in the upper chamber is from Dryden.

Her Senate profile states, “Senator Beyak has been active in community service since 1982, from classroom volunteer to Vice-Chair of the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education. In 1994, she participated in a roundtable for violence prevention in schools that led to the development of a code of ethics, which became a model for school boards across Ontario. She has also participated in organizations working on education equality for all students in Ontario.

“The Senator chaired the Ontario Parent Council, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Trillium Foundation, sat on the inaugural board of the Real Estate Council of Ontario and held a dual license for real estate and insurance.”

Senator Beyak commented on Residential Schools starting in January.

“They didn’t mean to hurt anybody. The fathers and sons and family members of the nuns and priests, to this day, have to bear the reputation as well, and nobody meant to hurt anybody. The little smiles in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are real, the clothes are clean and the meals are good. There were many people who came from residential schools with good training and good language skills, and of course there were the atrocities as well.

“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.”

After her removal from the Aboriginal Peoples Committee, Senator Beyak has defended her comments saying that “Political correctness is stifling opinion and thoughtful conversation that we must be allowed to have if we are to truly improve our great country. 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.

“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. 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.”

The Senator demonstrating the kind of arrogance that only an appointed political position like the Canadian Senate provides is refusing interview requests.

That kind of arrogance is disgusting.

While Senator Beyak can try to claim that her views are an issue of free speech, when she is talking about the Residential School experience it certainly appears that her level of knowledge on the vast majority of the experiences that families endured is well outside of the harsh reality.

Children were ripped from their families, stripped of their culture, stripped of their language, often beaten, and far too often sexually abused.

Children were left hungry and lonely.

The entire Residential School system was designed as a form of cultural genocide.

The echo effect of the Residential Schools continues today. The Intergenerational Residential Schools impact on parents today continues. It is impacting how they relate, engage and treat their children it is a direct result of how the system treated them.

Prime Minister Harper with a great deal of support and help from Jack Layton came to the conclusion that an apology was needed and that victims of the Residential Schools needed help and support.

That Senator Beyak seems to want to sweep all the bad under the rug is reason enough that she was rightfully removed from the Aboriginal Peoples Committee. She certainly does not appear to have sufficient knowledge or awareness of the issues concerning the Indigenous people who she should be representing on that committee.

Many Canadians feel that the Senate is an out-of-touch political patronage trough that needs to be either changed or abolished.

Senator Beyak’s lack of knowledge and lack of sensitivity on the issue of Residential Schools is another example of the need to change Canada’s Senate.

Prime Minister Harper appointed Senator Beyak to the Upper House in 2013.

It is long past time for this ancient practice to stop.

Alberta has enacted a far more democratic and responsible process for Senate appointments. It isn’t perfect, but it certainly is far better than the status quo.

In Alberta, Senators are elected by the people, and then the Prime Minister appoints the Senator to the upper house.

The Senate as it stands today is a place for patronage and that needs to change.

Senator Beyak is claiming that the vast “Silent Majority” are standing with her on her ridiculous remarks.

Perhaps the reality is that the real majority of people in Northwestern Ontario, and across all of Ontario had no idea that Senator Beyak was or is representing them until her comments made her the latest example of why Senate reform is so needed in Canada.

One wonders what would happen if the people of Northwestern Ontario were to have their say in an election for the Senate?

The Senator might well find her version of her facts are in fact not in keeping with the real majority in Northwestern Ontario.

James Murray

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