Tim Harper: Lynn Beyak fights for right to fund her racist beliefs with tax dollars
The disgraced Senator invokes freedom of speech to keep her website up and running.
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Lynn Beyak has been stripped of her Senate committee seat, booted from the Conservative caucus and vilified and ridiculed from coast to coast to coast.
She has urged Canada’s Indigenous population to trade in their status cards for citizenship, ignoring the fact that those born in Canada are citizens.
She has done nothing but offend thinking Canadians for a year with her praise of residential schools and her contention that she understands Indigenous peoples because she doubled-dated with “an aboriginal fellow” when she was 15.
But she won’t go away.
Now she has fashioned herself as a champion of free speech and she wants us, as taxpayers, to continue to pay for a website where racist comments have remained under the guise of “supporters comments” for a year.
This week during a Senate debate over whether her Senate-funded website should be immediately shut down, Beyak told her colleagues they were trying to muzzle her.
“It is about trying to prevent me from expressing the view of many Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike — not racism or hatred in any way, just a better way forward that includes all of us in Canada,” she said.
She said she cannot further discussion on a better future for Indigenous Canadians if she is shut down, adding: “If this is considered racism, our society is in serious trouble.”
It’s not our society that is in trouble.
Beyak is making a remarkable and outrageous argument for a woman who has been repudiated by every Indigenous leader in the country.
It bears repeating some of the “supporters’” views that have been on her website for a year.
“The endless funding pit of reserves has to stop. These people need to join the commerce world and work for money.”
And: “There is always a clash between an industrial/organized farming culture that values effort as opposed to a culture that will sit and wail until the government gives them stuff.”
And this enlightened view, suggesting an Amish community banished to a northern reserve would thrive but “the aboriginals relocated to Amish country near Kitchener would have burned down the house and left the fields to gully and rot.”
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this week’s debate was the restraint shown by Sen. Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a seminal work that taught the country the horror of residential schools.
“These are comments made by members of the public, and no matter how you cut it, no matter what you say about it, most of those comments are racist in nature,” he said.
“Some of them, in fact, are borderline hate speech.”
The comments could instigate actions and foster beliefs that should concern all Canadians, Sinclair said — and Senate resources are being used for that purpose.
Beyak has her supporters.
Ghislain Maltais, a Conservative appointed by Stephen Harper, said people can express an opinion and others will disagree.
“War will not necessarily break out,” he said.
Leo Housakos, a former Senate speaker and Conservative appointed by Harper, said he vehemently disagrees with Beyak’s point of view, but maintained there is no limit on free speech.
There are procedural matters at play here because there is an argument that a motion to shut down the website would interfere with an ongoing Senate ethics probe into whether the letters posted to her site violate a code requiring her to “uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of Senator.”
History tells us it takes a lot to embarrass the Senate, but Beyak appears to have gotten there.
If one considers the letters posted to the website as hate speech, as Sinclair has suggested, then Beyak has forfeited her right to freedom of speech.
But there would appear to be a simple solution here.
Beyak has the right to espouse ignorant, ridiculous views that offend a more enlightened country in 2018.
She can continue to bring ridicule and vilification upon herself if she persists in her determination to continue some foolish quixotic mission to foist her views on Canadians as some matter of “freedom of speech.”
I invite her to do so.
As long as she follows the counsel of Kim Pate, the independent senator who spent a lifetime advocating for the marginalized, including Indigenous peoples, in Canada’s penal system. She invited Beyak to pay for her own website.
It’s offensive that tax dollars support her views.
Beyak can build her own website.
And we can ignore her.
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @nutgraf1