The Conservative party is facing questions on why it failed to oust Sen. Lynn Beyak from its caucus sooner, despite repeated calls from Indigenous leaders.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement late Thursday saying Beyak no longer had a role in the caucus after she posted letters from supporters on her website defending her decision to praise residential schools over the past year, including one that said every “opportunistic culture, subsistence hunter/gatherers seeks to get what they can for no effort.”
Scheer called it “racist” to suggest Indigenous Canadians are lazy.
Beyak could not be reached for comment following Scheer’s decision: emails to Beyak’s office have gone unanswered and the voicemail box at her Senate office is full.
WATCH ABOVE: Sen. Murray Sinclair responds to Beyak’s comments about residential schools
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the government finds it disappointing that Conservative leadership allowed Beyak to use her position to espouse her “ill-informed and offensive views” of history.
“Although Sen. Beyak has been finally removed from the Conservative caucus, it is more disappointing that her appointment by the Conservatives allows her to continue to use parliamentary resources to validate the views of those who refuse to accept the truth and propagate the misinformation and prejudice that continue to feed racism in our country,” Bennett said in a statement.
Beyak was named to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Last year, Scheer was urged by a number of Indigenous leaders, including Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, to remove Beyak from caucus following remarks she made about the legacy of Canada’s residential schools.
“In this era of reconciliation there is no place for the kind of outdated and uninformed thinking expressed by Sen. Lynn Beyak,” Bellegarde said in September. “She should resign, and if she won’t resign she should be expelled from caucus by the Conservative leader to demonstrate his party’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.”
In March, Beyak told the Senate that government-funded, church-operated schools where Indigenous children endured widespread sexual and physical abuse were not all bad.
“I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants – perhaps some of us here in this chamber – whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports,” Beyak said.