I was going to write an open letter responding to Senator Lynn Beyak, but the Anglican Church–who actually ran a network of residential schools themselves–published a much better response.
Senator Beyak is from Dryden, just an hour’s drive from Sioux Lookout, where I lived and worked from 2015-2017. While her sentiments seem outrageous, I can attest that they are not unique. I have heard many people make these types of comments, though they are definitely in the minority (and often dismissed out of hand). Senator Beyak has merely publicly expressed what so many settler Canadians believe.
Northwestern Ontario is one of the most culturally fractured and overtly-racist places I have ever lived in Canada. It is also one of the most integrated. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people live and work alongside each other. They date and marry. They attend church together and celebrate life events. Many people are survivors of Indian Residential Schools. In fact, Pelican Falls First Nations High School, where most students are from First Nation reserves in the area and located just outside of Sioux Lookout, is actually the site of a former residential school run by the Anglican Church of Canada.
Lynn Beyak’s careless remarks cut to the hearts of many around here. She could do much better as a Senator to get educated, learn as much as she can about Indian Residential Schools, accept it as the Truth (I mean, it was called a Truth and Reconciliation Commission), and be a better settler.
I hope she heeds the exhortations of the Church’s response, to steadfastly commit to the work of reconciliation and healing.