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Senator Lynn Beyak decries "Indian Act industry"

Anishinabek Nation grand chief calls Beyak's thinking irrelevant

Lynn Beyak, the controversial senator from northwestern Ontario, is speaking out against Prime Minister Trudeau's recent move to split the Indigenous file and create a second ministry responsible for Indigenous issues.

In an open letter released earlier this month, she also reasserts the opinion she outlined in her controversial March 7 Senate speech about residential schools, saying "a small number of aboriginals found the schools bad and a slightly smaller number found them good." 

Beyak, who was removed from the Senate's Aboriginal People's committee after a backlash against the March speech, says in the letter that the main problem for Indigenous people today is not the residential schools or anything from the past, but rather it is "the Indian Act Industry in Ottawa, all living and working together comfortably...fully assimilated to the ways of the white and Indigenous worlds, with available 5 star accommodations and business class travel, while the Indigenous population is constantly reminded that integration or assimilation is not good for them, and the rest of Canada is somehow to blame."

The letter proclaims "The last thing we need is another minister, ministry and bureaucracy in Ottawa to address the challenges."

It goes on to say that the two departments will be tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Beyak maintains are no different from the recommendations in the 1996 Royal commission on Aboriginal Peoples. She said these will add little "to the lives of the men, women, children and youth suffering at the grass roots level, living in squalor on reserves, with filthy water and inadequate housing."

The Senator from Dryden, appointed by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, argues "We do not need an Indian Act. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians."

The emphasis, she concludes, should be on individual prosperity and responsibility, with more money in the pockets of local people, and "not just national leaders and bureaucracies."

Patrick Madahbee: "Where did Stephen Harper find these people?"

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee was quick to condemn Beyak's latest comments when he was made aware of the letter on Tuesday.

In an interview with, Madahbee said his first reaction was to appreciate "just how irrelevant this type of thinking is in this modern era...She can dismiss all of the atrocities that went on (in residential schools). That's like saying the Holocaust was bad but the Germans made great Volkswagens."

Madahbee accused Beyak of trying to eradicate history "and say, everybody be nice little children and do what we tell you, as if she has the answers to anything. I really question, if you look at some of the appointments made by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, where did he find these people?".

The grand chief said he was initially hesitant to even respond to the senator's latest statements because it gives her "ludicrous" views even more exposure.

"It's no wonder her own party distanced itself from her remarks" in March, Madahbee said.

It's incredible in this day and age, he said, that people are trying to erase history.

Madahbee went on to observe that "Maybe First Nations were too welcoming with immigrants that came to our land. But it's not our way. Our way is to share. Now that she's here in our country, she thinks she has the full say on what should happen in this land, and she doesn't."