New Thunder Bay police board member penned letter supporting Senator Lynn Beyak in 2017

The newest member of Thunder Bay's Police Services Board says he's dedicated to moving forward in a positive way after writing a letter of support for suspended Canadian senator Lynn Beyak two years ago.

John Cyr, a Thunder Bay lawyer, officially joined the Thunder Bay Police Services Board on Tuesday. He was appointed by the province for a three-year term.

In 2017, a letter from Cyr was published in a Thunder Bay newspaper in which he wrote Senator Lynn Beyak's comments on residential schools were "balanced and thoughtful."

"Are critics of Senator Lynn Beyak saying that throughout the century-and-a-half of the residential schools there were never any good deeds? Ever?" Cyr wrote. "Are they saying that no one on the staff in residential schools was a good person? Ever?"

Cyr went on to write that "well-being and cultural success of aboriginal people that needs to be pursued in Canada today is too important a process to let it be hijacked by the shrill tyranny of political correctness that denounces rational discussion. Nor will it be advanced by attempting to barter with hurt feelings."

When contacted by CBC News on Thursday, Cyr admitted to writing the letter, but said he hadn't read it in a long time.

Cathy Alex/CBC

And while Cyr wouldn't comment specifically on residential schools, he did say he agreed with the Canadian Senate's recent decision to suspend Beyak over her refusal to remove racist letters from her website.

"Those things should not be on the website of somebody who is holding a public office," Cyr said. "They're mean-spirited and simply don't represent, I think, what most people feel."

Cyr said he wanted to join the Thunder Bay Police Services Board because he believes it can do good things in the community.

"There are wonderful opportunities to find very good ways of doing things ... with very positive outcomes, and that's where we have to be headed," Cyr said. "That's the message of the [board chair Celina Reitberger], and is is one of the principal reasons why I put my name forward to sit on the board."

Cyr said he intends to work with the other board members to "address issues that need to be addressed, but with a view to them being positive outcomes all-around, for all parties."

The Thunder Bay police services board was stripped of its power in December after two reports by police oversight committees revealed the existence of systemic racism within the board and the city police force. An administrator was appointed to oversee the board's activities.

Board members have since undergone governance and cultural sensitivity training, and their voting rights have been restored.

When contacted by CBC Thunder Bay Reitberger declined to comment on the letter. She said she stood by the comments made at Tuesday's meeting, describing Cyr as "a good ally."

In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler called on Cyr to resign from the board.

"It is unacceptable and insulting that a person who has expressed support for Senator Beyak's racist actions would be appointed by the province to the board tasked with restoring the trust of this city's troubled police service with the Indigenous community," Fiddler states.

"Policing is in crisis in Thunder Bay, and there is no place for a residential school apologist to service a community that is struggling to rebuild the relationship between its police service and the Indigenous population," the statement reads. "We demand that the province rescind this appointment or that Mr. Cyr submit his immediate resignation."