Lynn Beyak removed from all Senate committees

Lynn Beyak removed from all Senate committees

Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak has been removed from all Senate committees, a week after a series of controversial remarks about First Nations people came to light.

Chairs of the Red Chamber's agriculture, transport and defence committees confirmed to CBC News Wednesday that Beyak was no longer a member of their respective bodies. The Senate confirmed her name would be officially struck from the rosters Thursday morning.

In the spring, then interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose kicked Beyak off the Aboriginal Peoples committee after the northwestern Ontario senator mounted a defence of the Indian residential school system.

Beyak will continue to sit as a member of the Conservative caucus.

The move to strip Beyak of her remaining duties comes after Sen. Larry Smith said last week he would take "additional steps to address Sen. Beyak's ongoing role within our caucus." Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also said Beyak does not speak for his caucus, and she has "no role" in its affairs.

On Tuesday, Beyak was initially handed another Senate role as a temporary member of the Senate's energy committee, a decision that was quickly reversed after CBC News published a story about her new position.

Smith sent a statement Thursday morning that said the party has "concluded our deliberations and the parties have agreed to a set of measures to guide the senator going forward. We consider the matter closed."

Beyak recently said, in an open letter on her website, that First Nations should trade in their status cards and become Canadian citizens, while calling on them to promote their culture "on their own dime, on their own time."

The senator has also questioned the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which studied the residential school system, and defended "well-intentioned" teachers at the institutions. She has said she wants compensation for survivors, something the former Harper government instituted in 2007.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday Beyak should be shown the door.

"In this era of reconciliation there is no place for the kind of outdated and uninformed thinking expressed by Sen. Lynn Beyak," Bellegarde said in a statement, his first since Beyak's most recent comments emerged.

"Many have reached out to educate her and help her understand our shared history yet she refuses to acknowledge reality.

Bellegarde said Beyak's comments were hurtful and disgraceful.

"She should resign, and if she won't resign she should be expelled from caucus by the Conservative leader to demonstrate his party's commitment to truth and reconciliation. There is no room for this kind of thinking in today's Canada."

On Tuesday, Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett called for Scheer to remove Beyak from his caucus.

Big city mayors, Indigenous leaders, senators, and other federal cabinet ministers (Mélanie Joly and Patty Hajdu), have also called on Beyak to either resign from the Red Chamber or be kicked out of the Conservative parliamentary group.

When asked Monday how he planned to appeal to Indigenous voters if she remains a member of his caucus, Scheer said Conservative values appeal to all Canadians regardless of ethnicity.

"The senator's ongoing, offensive comments regarding Indigenous people are ill-informed, hurtful, and simply wrong," Bennett said. "These disturbing views expressed by a sitting parliamentarian undermine progress toward reconciliation."

Despite calls for her resignation, some of her Conservative caucus colleagues were rallying around Beyak Wednesday.

Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu said Beyak should not be kicked out of caucus for "giving an opinion" and she "did not commit a crime." Saskatchewan Conservative MP Brad Trost said Beyak is a "nice lady," but conceded he hasn't been closely following the controversy.

"Her heart's usually in the right place, so I give benefit of the doubt," he said.

Ontario Conservative MP Tony Clement said he didn't want to talk about Beyak, but rather focus on the Liberal government's changes to the small business tax regime.

Clarification : An earlier version of this story stated Sen. Lynn Beyak was to replace Sen. Michael MacDonald on the energy committee indefinitely. In fact, Sen. MacDonald says he was only to be away for one meeting because of a scheduling conflict.(Sep 21, 2017 11:14 AM)