The Indigenous Peoples’ Commission (IPC) of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) condemns comments made by Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak’s regarding Residential Schools. Beyak expressed that she “was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in that it didn’t focus on the good” that Residential Schools did – indicating not only how much work is still ahead for Canada in relation to reconciliation, but also education and decolonization.
Although we acknowledge that a select few residential school attendees have shared positive experiences, these accounts are an underwhelming part of the overall experiences shared with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Senator Beyak’s comments not only diminish the ongoing impacts tormenting Indigenous victims of Indian Residential Schools (IRS), but also the intergenerational trauma passed on to their descendants.
“On the eve of the 150th Anniversary of Canada we are deeply disappointed that Senator Beyak expressed the racism that was used to justify cultural genocide in this country.” IPC Co-Chair (Female) Lisa Abbott added, “The only good that came from the residential school era was the triumph of the human spirit in our survivors: that we refused to be assimilated, that our Indigenous children and our nations are resilient and strong. The Senator’s comments set a low water mark in our relationship with Canada and serves as evidence of how much more work is needed if we, as a young country, are to take the higher path to Reconciliation.”
“From what I’ve seen travelling the country and talking with real, everyday First Nations people, this is not the reality Beyak refers to.” Darian Doblej, the IPC’s Vice President Youth explained. “If she were to engage with survivors and their descendants, she would truly understand the net bad that happened. If she had attended a residential school, in her opinion, she may have received a better education on this issue in spite of herself.”.”
The IPC recognizes and supports the federal government’s commitment to the vital work of reconciliation, the process of truth telling and healing for Indigenous peoples as laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The government has committed to work, in full partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces, territories and other vital partners, to fully implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As Prime Minister Trudeau stated in his speech upon the release of the Commission’s final report, “Reconciliation will be the result of many jurisdictions, many sectors and many entities and communities working together, in a unified approach toward a common goal.”
Thus, Senator Beyak might heed the words of not only Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but also the Prime Minister that appointed her in 2013. Stephen Harper said in the historic Residential School apology “There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.” In this regard, the IPC calls for Senator Beyak to immediately apologize and be removed from the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.
Acting VP Communications