Lynn Beyak

I’m once again tardy to the party, but I believe this instance is a case of better late than never.

For those of you not in the know–and/or haven’t, for some reason, been keeping abreast with news in Canada–Lynn Beyak is a Canadian senator, who really shouldn’t be at this moment, for reasons I’ll go into now.

Beyak’s claim to fame, as far as I can tell, is whining about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report focusing on the atrocities which occurred in the residential schools and not students’ good experiences or the ‘good intentions’ of the people who worked in, and ran, the schools, then doubling down and even whinging about ‘fake news’ when she was initially called out for her remarks, instead of offering a mea culpa, if not an apology.

Here are my thoughts on the whole ‘good intentions’ spiel: a) colonization and cultural genocide are never good; b) ‘good intentions gone wrong,’ or any variation thereof, is simultaneously a cop-out and a form of gaslighting; c) intent doesn’t matter–what matters is what happens when the rubber hits the road. Oh, and that there are former residential-school students who had good experiences in the schools shouldn’t discount the stories of those who’ve been hurt by the residential-school system, and colonization in general.

Beyak then further classed up the joint by stating First Nations should trade their status cards for Canadian citizenships (pssst…First Nations are already Canadian citizens), and all ethnic groups should practice their cultures “on their own time and their own dime.” I see a hint of white supremacy in this statement, but draw your own conclusions.

Beyak has faced consequences for her repugnant remarks, but should no longer be in government, as her remarks, given her position, give her views a smidgen of legitimacy–and in an age where making such remarks is now considered a social faux pas, considering the damage they do. As she’s a senator, she’s made her remarks while being paid to sit in the Canadian government. She’s a blemish on the face of the Government of Canada, a public-relations disaster, and a national embarrassment for those of us with the decency to be embarrassed and appalled by her remarks and behaviour. (Note to Member of Parliament Tony Clement: Calling for Beyak’s ouster from Senate is not a form of censorship; she can still make her remarks, just not from a position of power, and she won’t be paid–and with Canadian tax dollars, at that–for making them. Just to clear that up.)

The sad thing is, Beyak had choices. She could have acknowledged that colonization is a bad idea, and promoted adopting the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. She could have reached out to First Nations–and not just those people who would tell her what she wants to hear–and actually listened to them. Instead, she chose to throw a temper tantrum and go the route of political grandstanding and white fragility–no doubt with the wholesale support of those who agree with her.

Political Grandstanding At Its Finest

I’m a little tardy to the party in commenting on this, but I needed to take some time to put my thoughts together about what a trio of politicians said recently about different subjects before putting fingers to keys to comment.

Let’s start with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comments about studies on violence against aboriginal women, particularly his comment about violence against aboriginal women being a crime issue and not a sociological phenomenon. I know that, as a wealthy white male in a position of power, Prime Minister Harper has little, if no, experience with racism, sexism, classism, or any other form of prejudice, so of course he would believe anything affecting anyone who is not a wealthy white heterosexual adult male is not a sociological phenomenon; he apparently has never heard of John Martin Crawford, a serial killer, and the fact that nobody cared about Crawford’s victims because they were aboriginal women, that people adopted the attitude of ‘just another Indian,’ which is the title of the book Warren Goulding wrote on this particular subject. It has also apparently never occurred to Prime Minister Harper that people started caring about the Highway of Tears here in British Columbia only after the first white female disappeared along that stretch of highway; the women who had theretofore disappeared along that stretch of highway were aboriginal. And since First Nations have been demonized by white settlers since first contact…If I didn’t know Prime Minister Harper’s words and actions were ideologically motivated–and they are–I would say the Prime Minister needs to do his homework before proceeding to open his mouth again. But I know better.

Next up: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq as part of dealing with the threat of the newly-formed Islamic State, declaring Canada would help protect, among others, religious minorities in the area. This is the same Minister John Baird who, when the Office of Religious Freedom was created in Ottawa, cited the fundamentalist-Christian line about ‘freedom of religion, not freedom from religion’ when defending the Office’s not including atheists and other nonreligious folk in its mandate. So I can’t help but wonder about Minister Baird’s true intentions in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East, nor can I doubt who he really intends to protect from the Islamic State, and those in charge of it, as well as the other Islamists who dominate the region.

Last, but certainly not least: British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, and the way, under her, the provincial government is dealing with the teachers’ strike. In a recent Vancouver free daily newspaper, Premier Clark called for teachers in B.C. to suspend their current strike, while apparently not wanting to give so much as a quarter of an inch vis-a-vis their demands, which include changes to class sizes and composition to better accommodate the needs of students. Whether or not all of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation’s demands are reasonable or not is a matter of debate, but Premier Clark and B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender need to stop flexing their muscles and meet the BCTF halfway. I would strongly suggest Premier Clark learn from the mistakes of her predecessor, Gordon Campbell, especially if she wants to remain premier of British Columbia.  On a personal note, I attended high school in Ontario during Mike Harris’ time as premier of that particular province; his policies on everything from education to healthcare made him immensely unpopular, and he didn’t last long as premier of Ontario.  Premier Clark would do well to learn her history, especially if she does not want to repeat it.

Canada’s political system is supposed to be a democracy, yet it seems, within the last decade, the politicians at every level of Canadian government–federal, provincial, and municipal–aren’t acting like it, but rather are ignoring the wishes of the people to act according to their own agendas, and expect us all not to say anything, even if we do notice.  If this situation is to end, then society at large needs to speak up, and thus make sure the people we elect into positions of power are willing to listen to us, and understand that, if they abuse the power we as an electorate give them, we can, and will, take it away.