Lynn Beyak is no stranger to controversy. She made waves back in 2017 when she defended the residential school system as “well-intentioned”. The residential school system saw tens of thousands of native children abducted and “re-educated,” with upwards of 6,000 indigenous kids being killed in the process.  

The senator was eventually suspended and had been taking part in anti-racist training sessions. During these sessions, however, Beyak appears to have once again caused more controversy with her actions and statements. Here are some of the things she’s accused of doing.

Falsely claiming Métis heritage

Instead of using the sessions as a learning experience, Senator Beyak attempted to justify her past remarks by falsely claiming to be Métis. The Métis community is a distinct polyethnic Indigenous group.  Beyak ostensibly claimed that since her parents had adopted an indigenous child, that somehow made Métis part of her identity.

No racism in Northwestern Ontario

During her training sessions, Senator Beyak asserted to her trainers that racism did not exist in northwestern Ontario, the region which she represents. Northwestern Ontario, however, is in fact a historical epicentre of racism towards indigenous peoples. Cities in the region have become infamous for systemic anti-indigenous racism and violence.

As some scholars point out, denying the existence of racism is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of contemporary racism. 

Case study gone wrong

Beyak was asked to analyze a case of a First Nations man being denied a hotel room, one which he had pre-booked. The senator stipulated that it may have been because the man had “dirty hair” or looked “grubby and threatening.” The man in question was the trainer’s husband.

Defending the Indian Act

The training also discussed the Indian Act, a piece of legislation that acted to control and oppress indigenous people in Canada. Several discriminatory policies, such as the residential school system, were made possible by the act. The senator refused to accept any of the anti-racist instruction on the topic, and instead was “appalled” by the trainer’s accounts of the discriminatory law.

Kicked out of anti-racist training

Understandably, because of her behaviour and comments, Beyak was kicked out of her anti-racist training. In a letter, her training coordinator writes the following:

“The Senator’s behavior resulted in her being asked to leave so she did not complete Cycle 2 or Cycle 3 content (…) Senator Beyak is not interested in confronting her ill-informed understandings of the contemporary realities of Indigenous people in Canada”

Beyak denies much of these accounts. She denies claiming to be Metis. Her lawyer is also contesting the fact that she was asked to leave the training sessions. 

The senate’s ethics committee is recommending that Beyak be suspended once again, for failing to take her anti-racism training seriously. 

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