Remove Racist Material from Senator Lynn Beyak's Senate Website
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To the Senate Ethics Officer and Committee
We, the undersigned academics, take exception to Senator Beyak’s Senate website. On this website, Senator Beyak publishes letters she claims to have received in support of her frankly offensive, ahistorical, and ill-informed views on Indian Residential Schools. We request that this material be removed from her Senate-sponsored site.
We are responding in particular to Senator Beyak’s claim that “academics from coast to coast” have evaluated these letters and stated that they are “not racist or hateful in any way.” On the contrary, the letters she has posted, signed only by first name or initial, include an array of racist stereotypes and misconceptions about Canadian history and white settlers. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s multi-volume final report carefully undertakes the work of providing a comprehensive account of the profoundly painful history of Canadian colonization that Beyak has long refused to acknowledge, a refusal that rightly resulted in her removal from the Conservative caucus.
It is disingenuous of Senator Beyak to maintain that these materials are being displayed for the purpose of public education: they are explicitly intended to support her own opinion, which is that the residential schools did not cause as much harm as the TRC hearings and reports, countless scholarly works, and a multitude of published survivor accounts have maintained.
The last few weeks have been particularly difficult ones for Indigenous people in Canada, whose daily experiences of colonial dispossession and entrenched white supremacist ideology have become all the more heightened in the wake of the Stanley and Cormier verdicts. Senator Beyak’s continued insistence on denying both the work of the TRC, and the continuing effects of colonization on Indigenous communities, is particularly offensive in this context.
In accepting the findings of the TRC--including a full acknowledgment of the pain and suffering caused by the residential school system that continues to the present day--Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserted, “The Government of Canada is committed to walking a path of partnership and friendship with Indigenous peoples.” The tacit endorsement entailed in the use of an official Senate website to promote racist and ahistorical characterizations harms this goal.
We urge Senator Beyak to develop a deeper understanding of residential school history and of the broader history and consequences of Canada’s evolution as a settler-state. A key first step for all public figures who are commenting on reconciliation is to read the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As Senator Murray Sinclair has repeatedly noted, “education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out.” As educators, we ask all Canadians to consider how they will share in the work of fostering truth and justice as we confront the painful legacy of the residential schools.
Heidi Darroch, Camosun College
Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor of Publishing, Simon Fraser University
Aimée Morrison, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, University of Waterloo
Heather Smyth, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, University of Waterloo
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