Beyak removed from Senate committee over residential school comments

Beyak removed from Senate committee

OTTAWA — Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak, who famously declared “some good” came out of Canada’s residential schools, has been kicked off the Senate’s committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

Jake Enwright, a spokesperson for interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, confirmed the decision in a statement late Wednesday.

“Ms. Ambrose has been clear that Sen. Beyak’s views do not reflect the Conservative party’s position on residential schools,” Enwright said.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent six years examining the legacy of the government-funded, church-operated schools, infamous hotbeds of abuse and mistreatment that operated from the 1870s to 1996.

The Conservatives were in power in 2008 when the federal government delivered an abject apology in the House of Commons to families and survivors, a fact not lost on Enwright.  

“It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who made an historic apology to the victims of residential schools and launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” he said.  

Earlier this week, Sen. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, who sits on the aboriginal committee, said she was “shocked and dismayed” by her Senate colleague’s remarks.

She said she would boycott the committee’s meetings as long as Beyak remained a member.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has also called for Beyak to be removed from the committee.

Early last month, Beyak told the Senate that she believed the schools were not all bad.

“I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants â€” perhaps some of us here in this chamber â€” whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has called the comments unfortunate and misguided, calling them proof of a need to educate Canadians about the long-standing legacy of the schools.

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s exhaustive investigation into the impact of residential schools, was present in the upper chamber during Beyak’s remarks.

The work of the commission lead by Sinclair was the result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, reached after residential school survivors took the federal government and churches to court with the support of the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations.

It was designed to help repair the lasting damage caused by the schools, and â€” in addition to compensating survivors â€” to explore the truth behind the program.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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