In politics just about everywhere in the World, there are truisms that really apply just about anywhere you go. One of those truisms is while there are many good people in politics, there are some who are simply the opposite of good and decent. There are some people who you hear speak some of the most ignorant and vile things and you ask yourself “How in the Hell did that person get here?”. Every country has this, and it’s true in Canada too.
Normally you can ignore those people and hope that eventually the people, in their wisdom, will vote them out. Of course, in Canada, we have an institution where that basic law of political gravity does not apply: The Senate. Being appointed, our Senators ever have to face the electorate, never have to ask for a vote and as such, don’t have the pressure on them that all other politicians in Canada have. Now don’t get my wrong, as much as I have my personal issues with the Senate as an institution, there are many good hearted, well meaning and hard-working people who take their appointment to the Red Chamber seriously. They take their role in our democracy to heart and deserve the kudos they get for their work.
But like in any other political chamber, with the good comes the bad. And when the bad just happens to come from your neck of the woods or part of the country, it makes it that much worse. In my case, being from Treaty Three territory in Northwestern Ontario, we have our particularly vile example who was appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. I am speaking of Lynn Beyak, twice rejected by the voters of the Kenora and Rainy River districts to serve in higher office yet deemed to be worthy of a Senate seat until the age of 75 by the Harper Conservatives.
Her story is quite well known in Canada now, for her vile and simply evil comments about Indigenous peoples, the Residential school system and other things. She’s caused much pain to those who she claims to represent in Treaty Three with those words, but she didn’t stop there. She actually posted on her Senate website “letters of support”, a term that I use in the loosest sense here, for her views and comments. She’s refused to remove those letters, refused to apologize for her hurtful words and was booted from the Conservative caucus. As you can imagine, the response to this whole situation has been rather visceral:
Those comments speak volumes but despite the public outcry, all the while those letters have remained on her website, continuing to hurt residential school survivors and their loved ones. The Senate Ethics Committee has been working on this issue now for a while and this afternoon we finally heard from them with some results of their deliberations:
If you want to read the report yourself, you can find it linked here. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about where we find ourselves here. Part of me is glad to see the Senate finally take a stand here of some sort and I would expect the full chamber to vote on this and make the suspension official. But part of me is pissed off at the completely inadequate level of the response and how this is about the worst that can be done here. They will forcibly take down the letters, something that should have been done long ago without it getting to this point. She will also be suspended WITH PAY for crying out loud, and that suspension will be all done after the Fall election. So, she will be sent home, with pay for the Summer to spend more time out at the lake??? Sorry that feels all kinds of wrong. And to make it all worse, after the election she’ll get to stay in her seat until February 2024. Yes, almost another five effing years. Oh, and what exactly will stop her from reposting the damn letters again and starting this crap up all over again?
There is so much that is wrong with this story so while I appreciate that the Senate Ethics committee is acting here, it feels a hundred miles short and completely lacking. I would hope that this story would move the new Senate, you know, the newly Independent members who now run the place, to initiate steps to make sure that there are real consequences for Senators like Beyak. I would also hope that all major parties in the Fall campaign will do the same.
This awful story of hate is a prime example of how the status quo simply isn’t good enough anymore. So, while we can breathe a bit deeper today that something has been done to correct this situation, we still have five years of this to go if the Senator decides to serve her whole term. With that in mind, I’m adding a small reminder of that fact and hopefully it will spur a bit of action before that date hits. Or maybe if she retires; we can all hope, right?