The eviction of Lynn Beyak from the Conservative Party’s Senate caucus is both long overdue, and totally insufficient. Her expulsion from caucus does nothing to remove her annual salary of $157,000, or to get her kicked out of the Senate before the age of 75.
Sen. Beyak had become a political liability for right-wing Tory leader Andrew Scheer, who was conveniently “shocked” in early January to learn that her website contains a variety of deeply racist “support” messages. These emails back Beyak’s claim that residential schools provided important “benefits” for Indigenous children, in particular education about the Bible and Jesus. Such “education” was a form of genocide, which includes conscious attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples through destruction of their traditional cultures, languages and spiritual beliefs.
This was well-known long before Stephen Harper appointed Beyak to the Senate as a reward for her efforts on behalf of their party – a move which came after his forced apology to Indigenous peoples for the terrible impact of the residential school system. And despite Scheer’s lame explanations, his office had been contacted repeatedly last year about the racist content on Beyak’s website.
The Conservative party was a key player in establishing the racist Canadian state upon the theft of indigenous territories, using the ideology that this is a “white man’s country.” The Tories to this day include a large number of unrepentant racists in their membership. But it is also a fact that other major parties still treat the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an “aspirational” document, stubbornly refusing to accept that a truly equal “nation to nation” relationship means fully accepting the terms of the Declaration. Racism in this country is a deeply rooted historical problem, not just a case of a few bad apples like Lynn Beyak.