Douglas W. Judson
No apologies for speaking out against racism: Judson
This letter to the editor was submitted for the April 10, 2019 edition of the Fort Frances Times. |
In a letter published last week, Nick Beyak has once again come to the breathless defence of his mother, Senator Lynn Beyak. This follows her latest official reprisal – this time from the Senate Ethics Officer – and my subsequent comments on the matter at a meeting of Fort Frances Town Council.
Students perished in our local residential school. It is patently absurd for Mr. Beyak to suggest that there is a “reasonable discussion” to be had or any need to “understand the views and experiences of those who see things differently” on these issues. The facts are widely accepted and officially documented. One fact is that the Beyaks certainly did not experience residential schools. I am content to stand with those who did, and those families and communities that continue to feel their harms.
Frankly, I can’t even fathom spending my entire life in Northwestern Ontario and denying this tragic history, or the fact of racism in Canada. There is no debate to be had about those realities, and I will not waste your column inches engaging in one. The space required to remediate such a profound level of ignorance and insensitivity is simply not economical for a small newspaper.
In any event, it is clear that the facts are irrelevant to the Beyaks. Mr. Beyak’s letter has muddled them in an attempt to divert attention from his mother and the shame and disrespect she continues to bring to her office, even though the record is clear:
In January 2018, the Senate Ethics Officer began an investigation into complaints against Senator Beyak, largely centred on her publication of content on her taxpayer-funded website which contained abundant false and racist characterizations of Indigenous people.
On March 19, the Ethics Officer concluded his investigation, finding that this content was indisputably racist, and that by posting it, the Senator had breached the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. His report ordered her to remove the racist content.
The Ethics Officer’s report also revealed that Senator Beyak had made a number of deeply disturbing comments in her defence – including stating that there is no racism in Canada and that the Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission engaged in “reverse racism”. These are shamefully ignorant and easily debunked statements.
As of this writing, the Senator has failed to adhere to the Ethics Officer’s order and remove the racist content from her website, something the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations has tweeted about daily.
At the March 25 meeting of Council, I called on the Senator to comply with the Ethics Officers’ finding, or to resign her seat and stop disrespecting the people of our region. The full text of my remarks is available on my website, at www.douglasjudson.ca/media.
I stand by every single word. I will never apologize for using my voice and platforms to speak out against injustice, harm, hatred, or systemic disadvantage impacting people in our district and Treaty 3 territory. That is my concept of community leadership, and the ethic I bring to public office. Racism and oppression can only be overcome by confronting it every time it rears its head.
Finally – and perhaps most unseemly – is that Mr. Beyak seems to imply that being a local “taxpayer” and “business owner” confers some special consideration from a councillor. When I last checked, owning a business didn’t give anyone a free pass on bigotry. In fact, coming from a small business family myself, I can tell you that the leadership values imparted to me were ones of inclusion, respect, and speaking out against injustice.
It has been over 6 years since Senator Beyak took office, and the only matter on which she has made headlines is residential school denialism. Perhaps as a business owner and concerned taxpayer, Mr. Beyak can tell us what she has achieved for our communities to justify an annual salary of $150,000 and generous travel and living allowances, or why she should stay on our payroll given her ongoing disrespect for the Senate, and the people of this region who are impacted by her actions.
If the Senator will not – finally – face the facts and use her office to advance the priorities of our communities, she should resign instead of embarrassing and insulting our communities any further.
Douglas W. Judson
Town of Fort Frances