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Embattled senator

Lynn Beyak is under fire for comments she has made regarding residential schools. We look at other remarks made in the upper chamber

Embattled Senator Lynn Beyak has a track record of saying controversial things

Senator Lynn Beyak is fighting off calls to resign after her statements about Indigenous residential schools sparked outrage, including among colleagues who have stripped her of her committee role.

In a statement released last week, a day after she was turfed from the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the senator from Ontario lamented that “political correctness is stifling opinion and thoughtful conversation.”

Beyak was sacked over comments she made in the Senate chamber, suggesting that the historical record on residential schools — which saw government and church-run institutions systematically remove Indigenous children from their homes; strip them of their culture, language, and religion; and, in some cases, result in their death — overshadowed the “good deeds” that were done through the system.

VICE News looked back through Beyak’s record in the upper chamber, in which she’s sat since 2013, and found that her historical revisionism on residential schools is not the only controversial statement she’s endorsed.

“The Native people still talk to me about it, the ordinary folks on the ground who just want to go to the mall…”

Cash for status

This January, Beyak endorsed a decades-old idea that Ottawa could simply pay each Indigenous person money in exchange for their unique status within Canada — an idea that Professor Jim Miller, who was called to provide testimony at the Aboriginal Peoples committee to talk about Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous population, called “disrespectful.”

“The Native people still talk to me about it, the ordinary folks on the ground who just want to go to the mall, get their nails done, get their hair done, live in peace and prosperity,” Beyak continued.“They’d like to have a national referendum, native to native — where do you want to live, what do you want to do, how do you want to move forward.”

With no irony apparently intended, Beyak argued: “They are tired of everybody speaking for them.”

LGBTQ

But some dated beliefs regarding Canada’s relationship to Indigenous peoples aren’t Beyak’s only controversial ideas.

In a speech from February detailing her opposition to a bill that would afford human rights protections for transgender Canadians, Beyak trumpeted an organization called Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism and encouraged her fellow senators to “Google and read about his life and his work.”

She lamented that the trans rights bill could cost millions.

The group is based around John McKeller, who wrote a manifesto outlining the group’s beliefs wherein he blamed the gay community for the AIDS epidemic, denounced same-sex couples as parents, and wrote that Matthew Sheppard — who was beaten to death for his sexuality — does not deserve his “canonization” because of his “sexual proclivity” and destructive behavior.”

Beyak, nevertheless, spoke on behalf of her “gay friends,” continuing: “By living in quiet dignity, they have never had to face any kind of discrimination or uncomfortable feelings.”

She lamented that the trans rights bill could cost millions: “For what? To appease a very small and vocal minority against whom, quite frankly, the clear majority of Canadians do not discriminate,” she added.

“Studied terrorism”

But most of Beyak’s work in the upper chamber comes from her time on the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. While she has no qualifications on the topics, she has claimed that she’s “studied terrorism” for nearly a decade, and has used her supposed research to raise the alarm about terrorism and cast aspersions about the Canadian Muslim community.

It’s not terribly clear what “uprising” Beyak is referring to in Vienna.

Last February, in the chamber, she insisted that her work informed her opinion that “if we do not want our streets to resemble the radical Islamic uprisings in Brussels, Belgium, Vienna, Paris and London, we’d better get our heads out of the sand and follow the lead of our allies.”

It’s not terribly clear what “uprising” Beyak is referring to in Vienna, which has foiled several terror plots but hasn’t actually faced a terror attack, unless Beyak is counting the 1529 siege at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Beyak’s source material isn’t always the best. In quizzing a police officer about the threat of terrorism in Canada, the senator cited a book by Erick Stakelbeck — a supposed national security expert who primarily works as a commentator for the the Christian Broadcasting Network and has caught the ire of the Southern Poverty Law Centre who wrote in 2016 that he “often peddles conspiracy theories about Muslims.”

His book The Terrorist Next Door, which Beyak cited as her research on the matter, openly encourages profiling Muslim men, curtailing Muslim immigration to America, and idolizes two Christian figures from the crusades. Many of the book’s themes, such as warning that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating America, regularly pop up in Beyak’s theories presented at committee.

“Are they moderate Muslims or are they Islamists?”

Beyak has, on more than one occasion, accused prominent Muslim Canadians of having ties to terrorist groups. In February, 2015, she grilled the Muslim author of an anti-radicalization report, demanding to know: “How can we trust community organizations to help us develop a counter radicalization narrative when they themselves are affiliated with organizations with known ties to terrorism?”

Earlier in the day, she asked one Quebec researcher — who has been accused of Islamophobia himself — about two prominent Canadians: “Are they moderate Muslims or are they Islamists?”

Beyak and her committee recommended, in 2015, that the government of Canada should “investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada.”

Beyak, in defending some of her comments in the Senate chamber, told her colleagues: “I have Muslim friends,” and argued that “no one is discriminated against in Canada — not First Nations, not Muslims, not Irish, not Scots, not women.”

While Bayek was removed from the senate’s committee on Indigenous affairs, she retains her seat on the national security committee and her place in the Conservative Party caucus.

She did not respond to a request for comment from VICE News.

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