Pierre Legault, Senate Ethics Officer with the Office of the Senate Ethics Office has released a report which found Senator Lynn Beyak had breached sections of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators by posting racist letters to her Senate website.
Legault has also reported that the senator refuses to remediate the breaches.
Complaints had been made about the letters. Complainants argued that by posting the letters, which expressed negative views about Indigenous peoples in Canada by calling them lazy and inferior to Canadians, Beyak had acted contrary to sections in the code, in that:
7.1. (1) A Senator’s conduct shall uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of Senator.
(2) A Senator shall refrain from acting in a way that could reflect adversely on the position of Senator or the Senate.
7.2 A Senator shall perform his or her parliamentary duties and functions with dignity, honour and integrity.
The posted letters also referenced a speech that Beyak made in the Senate on March 7, 2017, in which she questioned the extent of the Indian Residential Schools’ harmful impacts.
Beyak once sat as a Conservative, but was removed from caucus by Leader Andrew Scheer Jan. 2, 2018 after she refused to remove the letters from the government website. At the time, Scheer said racism would not be tolerated in the Conservative caucus.
In defense of posting the letters, Beyak denied they were racists, that they concerned matters of national and public importance, and that censoring speech undermines democracy.
However, Legault found “that Senator Beyak’s testimony demonstrated a lack of awareness about racism in Canadian society.
“I also found that there were a number of inconsistencies in both her oral testimony as well as in her written submissions and that she altered her positions at different points in time or sought to retract them.
Based on the review of all the letters provided, it was found that:
- Senator Beyak received 6,766 letters in total. Most of the letters were, in fact, emails. Of these, 2,389 were in support of her speech in the Senate on March 7, 2017 (25 of these could be offensive towards Indigenous people) and 4,282 were critical of her speech, and 95 were neutral. Some of the letters that were critical of her speech were copied directly to the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer.
- Senator Beyak selected and posted 129 letters on her website. All those that she chose to post were in support of her speech. None of the posted letters were critical of her speech.
- Of the 6,766 letters, 87 decried the posting of the alleged racist letters.
- Senator Beyak did not post all letters whose content could be construed as offensive in relation to Indigenous people. Others used stronger, more offensive language.
- The 129 letters on Senator Beyak’s website are grouped under the title “Letters of Support”. This support refers to the views as expressed in her Senate speech in March 2017.
The remedial action that was called for in January and February of this year by Legault was:
1. that she remove any letters from her website found to be in breach of the Code (five in total);
2. that she make a formal apology for posting any such letters and post the apology on her website; and
3. that she successfully complete a course that would be acceptable to Legault in cultural sensitivity with an emphasis on Indigenous issues.
Senator Beyak agreed to comply with the first of the three measures but refused to agree to the second and third. However, in a submissions dated March 2, Beyak sought to retract her acceptance of the first of the three remedial measures.
“I find that the fact that she refused to agree to remove the Letters in the event that I found she had breached the Code, even to the point of retracting her agreement to remove them, is an aggravating factor in this case,” wrote Legault.
“This is not germane to the issues raised by the Complainants per se, but is relevant to the consideration of remedial measures under subsection 48(14) of the Code and the recommendations that may be made by the Committee to the Senate, pursuant to subsection 49(4) of the Code.”
Read the full report here: http://sen.parl.gc.ca/seo-cse/PDF/Inquiry-Beyak2019-e.pdf