In all my years of writing and blogging I’ve developed some rules for myself when it comes to what I do. Those have come from experience and honestly just best practices I’ve picked up over the years. But probably the most important of those rules is the following; never write when angry. That’s a rule that’s saved me a few times because obviously in the moment we don’t always give our best thoughts on certain situations. Yesterday I had to invoke that rule for myself with a story that came out from Ottawa, one that left me and many others angry on many levels:
I’ve had my piece to say on Senator Beyak in the past and you can check those comments out for yourself. They still stand. But these developments bring a whole new, dark chapter to this ugly episode, developments that deserve to be tackled bit by bit. Let’s start with the Senator’s claims to be Métis, as they are disgusting and insulting for a couple big reasons. First of all, let’s be clear: she is not Métis, not at all, period. She claims that she is because “her parents had adopted an Indigenous child” when she was taking anti-racism training. Guess what folks, although I doubt this will be a surprise to most; when your family adopts someone into your family, you don’t become the race or culture of that new family member. Furthermore, Métis are a specific nation and to try to suggest that “First Nation + European = Métis” is just factually wrong and ignorant as Hell. But more to the point, when you bring someone from another race or culture into your family there isn’t this magical process where you gain their DNA, race and culture. That’s such crap, full stop. We Métis have been fighting to protect the integrity of our nation forever, especially today. To have this Senator try to use our nation, our history, our suffering and our very being as a cover for her racism is just beyond the pale and offensive beyond compare.
The second thing that is so infuriating about this claim by Beyak is that she says this in an attempt to justify her open racism towards Indigenous peoples, as if be Métis would make it alright to hold these views. I have a news flash for this person: it’s not okay and yes, you can be Métis and be racist towards other Indigenous peoples. Sadly, I’ve seen examples of just that. It’s complicated examples of lateral violence that drag Indigenous peoples down as a whole, but it happens. But the idea that Beyak actually believes that she can claim to be something she’s not to try to justify her ignorant views is just all kinds of disgusting. It would be like trying to claim to be Ukrainian to give someone cover to claim that the Holodomor didn’t happen. It’s offensive in the extreme and far beneath the accepted behaviour of any politicians in this country, period.
But beyond her attempts to race-shift some of the other things that came out of the report of her failed anti-racism training spoke volumes too. They painted the picture of an unrepentant individual who has shown no desire to change her ways, accept history and the facts and prefers to continue to be ignorant. Her behaviour and unwillingness to listen to the most basic things managed to get her tossed from this anti-racism training, which is stunning when you think about it. She couldn’t be bothered and decided to be obstinate and ignorant right to the bloody end. She continued to deny there were problems and pointed her judgmental finger of blame to Indigenous peoples instead. “It’s about what your people are doing to your own people” she told the facilitator, which is ignorant and ugly as it comes.
She also went on to say that racism “doesn’t exist” in her hometown of Dryden, which blew my mind because that is just completely false. I love Dryden and there are some great people there, but there is racism against Indigenous peoples in that community, full stop. Whether it be a doctor making racist comments to an Anishinaabe family during an emergency visit. Or a Dryden neighbourhood that fought against a First Nations boarding school because it would “drive down property values” and they wouldn’t “feel safe” in their homes. Or when the Chief of Police sent out a special notice to citizens to be careful of “suspicious” and “unlawful” activities when a First Nations youth hockey tournament came to town. Yeah, those were all examples of racism in their own ways, so to say that none exists in Dryden is just ignorant to reality.
On top of that, if that wasn’t bad enough, Beyak went onto defend the idea of discriminating against people in business, even stating that she’s done it herself in the past. That comment makes the campaign from a couple years ago to boycott her family businesses all the more prescient, especially given that she and her families businesses have made more than their fair share of money from Indigenous peoples all over Northwestern Ontario, all while holding these repugnant and ugly views.
As seething as this story left me last night, it left me begging for a solution to the ultimate problem here; the fact that she still holds a seat in the Senate of Canada. Suspension was an approach taken when she refused to take down her racist letters from her Senate website, but this most recent episode has made it clear that she is unrepentant. She is beyond redemption because she simply has no desire to and given that she has managed to blow-up her chance at learning from her mistakes, simply suspending her again is not good enough. That isn’t sufficient because of this big fact right below here:
The fact is that unless the Senate finds another way, she will continue to be in her seat for more than another three years. Another three years to say she is a Senator and another three years to have her views validated by the fact that she is still a member of that chamber, suspended or not. Her very membership in that chamber of Sober Second Thought confers on her cover that she does has not earned or deserved. In fact, it’s impossible to bring the sobriety that chamber demands when she is drunk and far gone on her own racism and views.
We are supposedly in a period where we have a new, Independent Senate. We’ve been told that this isn’t the same institution as it has been in the past, stripped of partisanship and cloaked in merit and thought. If that’s in fact the case, the membership of Lynn Beyak presents the first major challenge to that new reality. If this chamber has in fact changed, it’s time for the members of that chamber to come up with new potential resolutions to extreme situations like these. She needs to be removed from the Senate, period, and I would look to this new Senate to figure out a new way to do this. Whether it be a method of recall of Senators or some other way to remove those who prove that their presence in that chamber demeans the place and those others who serve there.
Will we actually see that? I don’t know but a repeat of last times suspension antics from now until her forced retirement just doesn’t bring justice here. Senator Beyak has managed to disgrace herself further while further proving how unworthy she is of her seat. Some good people of good will have been appointed to sit with her in the Senate. This is the time for those good people to show Canadians that the day of the old Senate is long gone and this new Senate will act to not just protect the integrity of the Red Chamber, but they will hold ignorant and hurtful people like Senator Beyak to account. We’re all watching and the time to remove her is now.