“In a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness.”
– Robert Griffin III
Senator Lynn Beyak (Ontario) has now been suspended for posting alleged racist letters of support for her March 7, 2017 speech in the Senate. Her speech at that time related some of the positive experiences of residential schools. She received 6766 letters in response to her speech, 35 per cent of which were supportive. Those statements represent the opinions of Canadian citizens and reflect some of the concerns that many others share. It is significant that 35 per cent of the 6766 letters received by Senator Beyak in response to her speech in the Canadian Senate were supportive. Many of those letters were from Indigenous persons who attended residential schools and reflect their positive experiences.
In the opinion of the Senatorial Ethics Committee, five of those letters were racist containing comments such as; Indigenous people in Canada “wait until the government gives them stuff,” and should be “grateful” for the residential school system. I have read all of those letters of support and while I may not agree with them, I do not find any of them to be either racist or offensive. They simply reflect the opinions of many upright Canadian citizens.
The Hill Times in a May 6 editorial supporting the suspension, stated that ‘Senators are, by the nature of their role, intended to be insulated from pressure or control by the public, parties, or nearly anyone or anything else, so they can discharge their duties freely,‘ and ‘The independence of Senators is important.' Those statements, in my opinion, reflect the need for parliamentarians to speak their true thoughts and not bow to political pressure to tow the party line. That is the essence of Senator Beyak’s powerful message, discharging her duty freely and without concern for the contrary opinions of some of her Senatorial colleagues.
That is the essence of our democracy – the right to hear and debate all sides of even the most contentious issues.
The biggest scourge on freedom of expression that we have in Canada today is the leaning towards political correctness. Nobody can speak out about the residential school issue, Indigenous entitlements, climate change, gay rights, abortion or so many other issues that require objective, serious debate if we are ever to resolve those issues. The deniers are not given a platform, or even the right to be heard.
It is astounding that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission appears not to have heard the voices of the many Indigenous students who attended residential schools and have had positive experiences. I am not denying that there were some very negative, even atrocious acts that emanated from those schools but there were also many positive outcomes.
Senator Beyak should not be condemned for her actions. She should be congratulated for standing up and speaking out and presenting the other side of the story.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.