WINNIPEG – The mayor of Winnipeg is calling for the resignation of a senator who wants Indigenous people to give up their status cards in exchange for Canadian citizenship.
Brian Bowman said the comments by Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak are damaging to the country’s reconciliation. If she won’t quit, he said, she should be better educated and understand that Indigenous people are indeed Canadians.
“To have a member of the Canadian Senate be so incredibly ignorant about who Canadian citizens are is deeply offensive,” Bowman said Thursday.
“At a minimum, she should be apologizing to Canadians — all Canadians.”
A letter signed by Beyak, and posted on her website Sept. 1, says: “None of us are leaving, so let’s stop the guilt and blame and find a way to live together.
“Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship, with a fair and negotiated payout to each Indigenous man, woman and child in Canada, to settle all the outstanding land claims and treaties, and move forward together just like the leaders already do in Ottawa,” Beyak wrote.
“All Canadians are then free to preserve their cultures in their own communities, on their own time, with their own dime.”
The senator from northwestern Ontario made headlines earlier this year for saying “some good” came out of Canada’s residential schools. She spoke in the Senate chamber about staff at the schools having good intentions and students having positive experiences.
She was subsequently removed from the Senate’s Indigenous affairs committee.
Bowman, who is Metis, encouraged others to speak out against Beyak. The mayor has been working to address race relations in his community since Maclean’s magazine dubbed it the most racist city in Canada in 2015.
Requests for comment to Beyak’s office were not returned Thursday.
But she did release an open letter that said she can’t take credit for an idea that came from former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 White Paper that proposed repealing the Indian Act and all treaties. The idea was abandoned by the government in the face of sharp criticism from Indigenous communities.
“I believe that it is brilliant and could form part of a path forward today,” wrote Beyak.
“Other suggestions and solutions for moving forward in a positive way come through support letters from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from coast to coast … What we have been doing is obviously not working, spending billions of dollars annually, yet filthy water and inadequate housing still a reality on too many reserves.”
Sen. Larry Smith, leader of the Conservative Senate caucus, issued a statement on Twitter: “The personal opinions expressed by Senator Lynn Beyak do not reflect the positions of the Senate Conservative Caucus,” he said.
“Accordingly, we have taken additional steps to address Senator Beyak’s ongoing role within our Caucus.”
Ontario member of Parliament Charlie Angus, who is vying to lead the federal New Democrats, tweeted that Beyak has “no credibility, competence or fitness for public office.”
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton