Misconduct Allegations Against Dr. Black-Branch Cast Further Doubt on Validity of University of Manitoba’s Anti-Racism Training for Lynn Beyak
THUNDER BAY – Often embattled Northwestern Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak is under fire again.
A recent letter to the Law Society of Manitoba from a group of University of Manitoba-affiliated lawyers question the “honesty, trustworthiness and competency” of Dr. Johnathan Black-Branch, former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the university.
This news further calls into question the credibility of the May 2020 “Training on Racism in Relation to Indigenous People” for Senator Lynn Beyak, which was led by Dr. Black-Branch.
The former Dean was chosen by Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault in May as an “eminently qualified” individual, to design and deliver the training for Beyak following an order from the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. In his June 9 report to the Committee regarding the training, Legault noted that the choice of an educational program provider must “inspire credibility” and that “Dr. Black-Branch and his team were indisputably qualified to assess Senator Beyak”.
Dr. Black-Branch was reportedly placed on leave from his position as Dean in early May 2020 for unknown reasons. Nonetheless, he continued as head of the educational team who designed and delivered Beyak’s tailor-made program. The Senator participated in sessions with the team via video from May 19 to 22.
Coalition spokesperson, Anishinaabe lawyer Danielle H. Morrison says, “From the moment it was announced that a recommendation was made to reinstate Senator Lynn Beyak based on training led by my former Dean, Dr. Black-Branch, I questioned the involvement of an academic institution so far removed from our lived experiences of racism.” She goes on to note that universities are too often given more credibility as ‘experts’ than Indigenous knowledge keepers. “Why is a university deemed more highly qualified and ‘impartial’ than we are? Why are they given more time, money and authority to give not just a second, but a third chance to someone who has already been suspended twice from the Senate?”
Coalition member Garnet Angeconeb adds “As a survivor of the Indian residential schools’ system, I remain perplexed and angered by the never-ending issues related to the suspension of Senator Lynn Beyak. The recent developments – serious allegations of misuse of funds by the former dean of the University of Manitoba law school – raise some real alarm bells. Where is the reconciliation effort in this mess?”
The University responded to Winnipeg Free Press inquiries on August 14 that they take public accountability “very seriously” and “Failure to do so can have serious consequences for the institution”.
Morrison concludes, “It is unfortunate that a process that was meant to bring justice and healing for all involved is now tainted by seemingly unethical behavior of those at the top. Survivors, our community and our nations deserve better.”
The Coalition urges both the University and the Senate to recognize and address the implications of Black-Branch’s lead role in Beyak’s training.