Sioux Lookout Mayor Speaks out on Senator Beyak

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The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.
The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.

The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.
The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.

Sioux Lookout, ON – Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance says he and members of the local Truth and Reconciliation Committee are disappointed with Senator Lynn Beyak’s recent misguided comments about Indigenous issues. The disappointment comes especially after the Sioux Lookout Truth and Reconciliation Committee met with the Senator in July.

Mayor Lawrance said, “While meaningful dialogue on reconciliation efforts are needed, some discussions may be difficult. It is not easy to listen to the stories of residential school survivors. But such discussion proves this country can and is heading in the right direction to better understanding and renew relations.”

In March 2017 Senator Beyak’s public comments about the “good” and “positive” of Indian Residential Schools caused a media flare up. Her comments run contrary to the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Subsequently the Senator was removed from the senate aboriginal affairs committee.

To impress upon the Senator about the importance of reconciliation efforts stemming from the residential school legacy, the Sioux Lookout Truth and Reconciliation Committee met with her in a traditional healing setting. The lingering effects of the legacy are evident today and so ongoing healing from those effects is necessary.

Mayor Lawrance said, “We engaged in dialogue with Senator Beyak because she comes from northwestern Ontario where there were nine residential schools. It is important for all Canadians to know and understand this history.”

Last week a story on CBC carried a photograph of the Senator and members of the Sioux Lookout Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The story is linked to the Senator’s website. In another CBC story from Saskatchewan, it read, “[Senator Beyak] spent part of the summer with members of the Sioux Lookout community, located in southwestern Ontario.”

In fact, the Senator met with T & R Committee for approximately three hours and she did not spend “part of the summer” with community members as the story reports. The same story erroneously reported that Sioux Lookout is located in southwestern Ontario. Sioux Lookout is actually located in northwestern between Thunder Bay and the Ontario/Manitoba border.

Mayor Lawrance says, “The photograph carries the impression that all is well between our committee and the Senator. Clearly that is not the case. I hope it is not the Senator’s intention to use this photograph to send a misguided message. Obviously the Senator needs to brush up on her knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues.

“For example, the Anishinaabe people living in Sioux Lookout need not trade their status cards to become Canadian citizens; they’re already Canadians.”

Despite some setbacks caused by Senator Lynn Beyak’s comments, Sioux Lookout forges ahead to build renewed relations for the betterment of all.