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EDITORIAL: Parting of the ways not surprising

For someone who belongs to a body purportedly known for its sober second thought, Senator Lynn Beyak apparently doesnt pay much attention to the job description.

Its not difficult to understand federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheers move to kick the senator out of the Conservative caucus, given her apparent determination to stick to racist-tinged views about Aboriginal people in this country. But then for Beyak to quibble over the version of events and criticize the relatively new leader for what she calls his inexperience – that also suggests a lack of sober thought, whether pondering for the first, second or third time.

Beyak has made tasteless comments on the subject before. But Scheer’s motivation to expel the senator from caucus was based on items posted to her parliamentary website that included racist correspondence about Indigenous Canadians.

Scheer’s office claims the leader told her to remove the insensitive posts, the senator claims they had no such discussion and, well, we thought it was supposed to be the Conservatives and Liberals who agree to disagree.

Beyak, a business owner from northwestern Ontario, got started on her narrative about First Nations issues last spring when she said there were many positives about residential schools that have been overshadowed by talk of the atrocities that took place in them, including widespread physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Many positives? Really?

Perhaps the senator should leave any assessment of the positives or negatives up to the people who endured them, to those who survived them. Speculation from someone who wasn’t there carries a lot less weight in the court of public opinion.

Few would argue against the acknowledgment now that the residential schools were an aggressive attempt by government to force assimilation of First Nations people.

It didn’t stop there.

Calls for her resignation heightened in September when she posted an open letter on her Senate website telling Indigenous Canadians to give up their status cards and pursue Canadian citizenship – apparently unaware that they are already citizens. According to an article from The Canadian Press, she also advised them to practise their culture “with their own dime.”

One of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harpers appointees to the upper chamber, Beyak took her seat in 2013. With the expulsion by Scheer, she continues to sit as an independent senator.

Its not surprising that other Conservatives would want to distance themselves from a colleague speaking in racist tones. One simple reason would be that, in the game of politics, she sets herself up – and the party by extension – to potshots from their opponents.

Beyak is now framing this in a conversation about the principles of freedom of speech, suggesting that the Conservative leader is hampered by political correctness.

Freedom of speech is indeed something we should all cherish. But it works best and sounds far more reasonable when its delivered using somewhat sober elements.

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