Skip to content

NAN demands resignation of new provincial police board appointee

New police board member John Cyr penned a letter to the Chronicle Journal in 2017, and refers to Sen. Lynn Beyak's promotion of the positive aspects of residential schools as "balanced and thoughtful."
John Cyr 2
Provincial appointee John Cyr at the Neebing Municipal Meeting Office on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Michael Charlebois, tbnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY - A letter by new police board appointee John Cyr in support of Sen. Lynn Beyak has resurfaced, leading the head of Nishnawbe Aski Nation to call for his resignation. 

The letter, titled "No good deeds, ever, at residential schools?" was written to the Chronicle Journal on March 21, 2017.

The letter was written two weeks following Sen. Lynn Beyak's controversial 2017 speech before the Senate where she promoted the positive aspects of residential schools.

Cyr, contacted over the phone on Thursday, said the letter was not a direct response to the speech, but was written in regards to comments made about Beyak around the time.

He also said he has not read the letter since it was published, and affirmed it was his "opinion at the time."

"I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants... whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports," she said in her speech.

Cyr, writing in 2017, asked in the letter "Throughout the century-and-a-half of the residential schools there were never any good deeds? Ever?"

"Sen. Beyak’s comments were balanced and thoughtful. They gave needed voice to good people who appear not to have been heard, or, if heard, not listened with any understanding. Not to recognize that would seem to choose tyranny and hurt feelings over reconciliation," the letter reads.

Fiddler calls for resignation

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler called for Cyr to step down in a written statement issued on Thursday.

"We demand that the province rescind this appointment or that Mr. Cyr submit his immediate resignation," Fiddler's statement reads.

“It is unacceptable and insulting that a person who has expressed support for Senator Beyak’s racist actions would be appointed by the province to the board tasked with restoring the trust of this city’s troubled police service with the Indigenous community. Policing is in crisis in Thunder Bay, and there is no place for a residential school apologist to service a community that is struggling to rebuild the relationship between its police service and the Indigenous population."

Board chair considers Cyr an ally

Cyr was officially introduced to the police board at its meeting on Tuesday. 

Board chair Celina Reitberger praised the appointment of Cyr on Tuesday, saying he brings insight, enthusiasm, and experience (working) with Indigenous people.

"I consider John to be an ally," she told Tbnewswatch on Thursday.

When asked what the response may be from the Indigenous community, Reitberger said, "It's my hope that people will just ignore it. Because that's what I feel needs to happen. We need to ignore Ms. Beyak."

During Cyr's first board meeting on Tuesday, he told reporters Reitberger's plea for forwarding progress on the police board was what inspired him to join.

“My first inclination to put my name forward came as a result of (Celina) Reitberger’s comment that it’s time to move forward. If that’s the attitude I would very much like to be part of it.”

Cyr reaffirmed this on Thursday.

"Absolutely. (Reitberger's) comments were the reason I came forward, and I will continue to work with her and the board."

Beyak was suspended from the Senate earlier this month for the remainder of the parliamentary session.

The suspension came on the heels of a Senate ethics committee recommendation calling for her removal following the posting of anti-Indigenous letters to her website.

Cyr called the letters "entirely inappropriate."

"It shouldn't be published on a Senate website or any public website for that matter."

Michael Charlebois

About the Author: Michael Charlebois

Michael Charlebois was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where he attended St. Patrick High School and graduated in 2015. He attends Carleton University in Ottawa where he studies journalism.
Read more