N.W.T. senator says Lynn Beyak 'should be expelled'

The senator for the Northwest Territories, Dawn Anderson, has joined calls for controversial Sen. Lynn Beyak to be expelled from parliament's upper chamber.

"It is no longer acceptable to be in denial or ignorant of Indigenous history or its impact on Indigenous people," said Anderson.

Anderson, an Inuvialuk from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., said "giving voice to underrepresented groups" is one of the main constitutional responsibilities of the Senate, and Beyak "has continually demonstrated that she is unwilling or unable to do so."

"I think if we, as senators and Indigenous people, fail to address and speak up against racism, bigotry, and ongoing ignorance of a history that is steeped in colonialism, suppression, assimilation, and erasure of who we are and can be as Indigenous people, what message are we sending our Indigenous children and future generations?" she asked.

It's not only my job to speak out against racism.... It is the only option. - Sen. Dawn Anderson

The Senate is currently debating a report from its ethics committee, tabled Feb. 4, that recommends Beyak be suspended for the second time in 8 months.

Beyak was suspended without pay in 2019 after she declined to remove letters from her website that were widely condemned as racist, and for refusing to apologize for posting them. Her suspension ended with the start of the last election.

The ethics committee report says Beyak failed to take seriously the Indigenous "cultural competency training" she was ordered to take in the wake of her suspension. 

According to a report from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Beyak was asked to leave the premises after the first lesson because her "inflexibility and conduct made the learning environment unsafe."

CBC

The report says Beyak claimed she was Métis because her parents had adopted an Indigenous child. On Wednesday afternoon, Beyak issued a short statement denying she had ever claimed she was Métis. Her lawyer is also contesting the report.

'It is the only option,' says Anderson

Anderson said in her professional capacity, she has been able to work with Beyak in a spirit of "respect and openness."

But she also said it was the Senate's duty to take a strong stand against racism.

"I believe that being Indigenous and in a place of privilege ... it's not only my job to speak out against racism," she said. "It is the only option."

Anderson is the second senator to call for Beyak's expulsion, joining P.E.I. Sen. Brian Francis.

No senator has been expelled in the history of the Senate. If not expelled, Beyak would be entitled to serve another five years, until she is 75.

While Anderson supports the idea, she demurred when asked if she would put forward the motion to expel Beyak herself.

"I think the process is in place and I am, as the rest of the senators, following that process," she said.