OTTAWA – Newly independent Sen. Lynn Beyak is refuting Andrew Scheer’s version of the facts surrounding his decision to kick her out of the Conservative caucus – and blasting his inexperienced leadership.
Scheer booted Beyak last week, saying she had refused to remove offensive content in letters she posted to her Senate website expressing support for her controversial comments last year in praise of the residential school system.
In a written statement Monday, Beyak effectively accused Scheer of not telling the truth.
“Contrary to his statement, that he asked me to remove content and I refused, neither I nor my staff ever spoke with Andrew Scheer or anyone from his office, at any time,” Beyak said.
She also disputed his allegation that she “admitted that she intentionally posted racist correspondence about Indigenous Canadians to her parliamentary website.”
“That statement is completely false,” Beyak said. “I would never say or do such a thing.”
Scheer’s office has said the two spoke by phone about the letters, but Beyak said she found out about the decision to boot her from caucus through the media.
Jake Enright, a spokesman for Scheer, pointed to the written statement he issued last week, which claimed Scheer found out about the letters on Jan. 2, and removed her from the caucus after she refused to remove the racist content.
“The facts outlined in that statement stand,” Enright said.
Beyak also accused Scheer of falling prey to attempts by the governing Liberals to distract from their own political problems by going after the letters, which have been visible on her website for months.
“A good leader would never have fallen for such a ploy, but when an inexperienced leader wins by a small margin, and does not adequately consider other viewpoints, some wisdom and common sense are lost,” she said.
“We deserve better leadership other than the current choices, who are mired in, or hampered by, political correctness.”
Beyak went on to defend her comments and the letters she posted as a “voice for free speech.”
Beyak, a business owner from northwestern Ontario, was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013. She will continue to sit in the Senate as an independent.
The residential schools controversy began last spring when Beyak 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.
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. She also advised them to practice their culture “with their own dime.”
At that time Scheer said he didn’t agree with her comments and had asked her to consider leaving the caucus if she couldn’t embrace a “positive, inclusive message.” But he stopped short of forcing her out then.
That changed last week when the existence of the letters on her website surfaced.
A defiant Beyak vowed Monday that she will not be silenced.
“As an independent senator, I will continue to be a voice for freedom of speech,” she said. “I consider it my duty and my role, as well as a great privilege, to speak on behalf of so many wise Canadians.”