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Independent Senators Group calls for investigation into whether Sen. Beyak breached Senate Ethics Code

In a statement released Tuesday, Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, facilitator of the 39-member Independent Senators Group, said caucus members had filed a request with the Senate Ethics Officer for an opinion on whether the controversial Senator violated the Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code by posting letters online that contained overt anti-Indigenous statements.

Senator Yuen Pau Woo says members of the Independent Senators Group are asking for an investigation into whether Senator Lynn Beyak violated the Senate Code of Ethics by posting hundreds of controversial letters online on residential schools and Indigenous people. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

PUBLISHED :Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 1:52 PM

Members of the largest group in the Senate are calling for an internal investigation into whether Sen. Lynn Beyak broke rules of conduct for the Senate by posting controversial letters about Indigenous people on her parliamentary website.

In a statement released Tuesday, Sen. Yuen Pau Woo (British Columbia), facilitator of the 39-member Independent Senators Group, said caucus members had filed a request with the Senate Ethics Officer for an opinion on whether the controversial Senator violated the Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code by posting letters online that contained overt anti-Indigenous statements.

Specifically, he said caucus members are looking to see if Sen. Beyak (Ontario), in posting the letters, did not “uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of Senator,” as mandated under section 7.1 of the Senate Code of Ethics.

“Many of the messages posted on Senator Beyak’s website are deeply offensive to Canadians. They can only serve to set back the much-needed reconciliation of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians,” Sen. Woo said.

  

“Hosting such material on a Senate of Canada web domain is not consistent with the role of the Upper House as a unifying force for the country and as a defender of minorities.”

One of the letters, authored by a supporter and posted on Sen. Beyak’s website, said that “First Nations people should be very grateful” that the Residential Schools System was “in place for their benefit.”

Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain (De la Vallière, Que.), deputy facilitator of the ISG, added that while Senators are protective of their parliamentary privileges, they must speak “truth” and behave in a “responsible way within the framework of our Code of Ethics.”

ISG caucus members have also asked Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration Committee chair Sen. Larry Campbell (British Columbia) to table a discussion at the next meeting of the committee on whether the posting of such materials on a website hosted by the Senate and paid for by public funds “constitutes a misuse of Senate resources.”

  

Sen. Campbell is also a member of the ISG, which holds a plurality of seats in the 105-member Senate.

Sen. Beyak was removed from the Conservative caucus late last week after Tory Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) said she refused to remove the contentious letters from her website, including one that effectively labelled Indigenous people as lazy compared to non-Indigenous Canadians. She had posted the letters to showcase public support for her controversial stance that “some good” came from Canada’s notorious residential schools.

However, in a statement released Monday, Sen. Beyak refuted Mr. Scheer’s accusations, saying she never spoke to the Conservative letter about the letters and defended her website as an avenue for “free speech.”

She is now sitting as a non-affiliated Senator with no affiliation with any recognized group in the Senate.  

  

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times