Booting Beyak – Conform or Get Out!

Brian Giesbrecht, Commentary, Culture Wars

Senator Lynn Beyak has been expelled from caucus by the Conservative Party. The reasons for her removal were that “she allowed” racist posts to be placed on her website and refused to remove them when ordered to do so. In fact, I am one of the people quoted on her website.

I wrote “some good came from residential schools,” and “status cards have no place in a modern country like Canada.”

“Some good came from Residential Schools.”

The Assiniboia Residential School located in the Tuxedo neighbourhood of Winnipeg closed in 1973. Some may recall that at the time the school was well known for its exceptional hockey team in which eight members would go on to become well respected chiefs in their home communities. Was this  just a coincidence? Or did those eight men receive a valuable education and the confidence necessary to go on and become leaders, thanks to their residential school experience.

Despite being told by mainstream media how one should view the history of Canada’s residential schools, I am not alone in believing that there were some good experiences among the bad experiences.  

Tomson Highway believes that there are good stories among the bad stories that also need to be recognized. Highway is without a doubt Canada’s best-known Indigenous playwright and novelist. He was born in a dogsled and grew up in the remote Barren Lands First Nation in northern Manitoba. Highway has written many books and plays about the negative parts of the residential school experience. However, he is more than willing to talk about the positive experiences as well.

Here is what he told the Huffington Post (reported Dec. 15,2015) about his residential school experience:

“All we hear is the negative stuff, nobody’s interested in the positive, the joy in that school. Some of the happiest years of my life I spent at that school.” He continues, “You may have heard stories from 7,000 witnesses in the process that were negative,” he adds “But what you haven’t heard are the 7,000 reports that were positive stories. There are many very successful people today that went to those schools and have brilliant careers and are very functional people, very happy people like myself. I have a thriving international career, and it wouldn’t have happened without that school. You have to remember that I came from the far north, and there were no schools up there.”

Another example of a successful alumni of the residential school system is Phil Fontaine. Fontaine shared his own tragic sexual abuse story and victimization while being enrolled in the residential school system, Fontaine is perhaps the most successful lobbyist in the history of this country and has no trouble acknowledging the fact that there was both good and bad that came from the residential school experience. Mr. Fontaine told the Winnipeg Free Press (April 28, 2017):

“I don’t have a problem separating the good from the bad”. He continued, “The story that’s emerged [from residential schools] hasn’t been the most positive. In fact, it describes a pretty tragic part of Canadian history. But there’s no doubt…in fact, it defies logic that there weren’t good people at these schools who actually cared about the kids. And there were some aspects of the residential school experience that were positive.”

According to a CBC article “Truth and Reconciliation Commission: By the numbers” (June 2, 2015) there were approximately 150,000 children that attended residential schools. By 2015 approximately 32,000 claims had already been resolved and with approximately another 8,000 claims still pending.

Based on the above numbers, obviously there are many examples of people who did receive some benefit from their residential school experience. While the harm that many individuals faced in residential schools is inexcusable and is now well-documented and should be widely known, it is equally inexcusable to mislead the public in believing that there was no good stories to be told, these good stories must equally be recognized.

If someone labels another “racist” because they stated that some good came from residential schools then that same someone must believe that the eminent Indigenous leaders, I quoted, are “racists” as well.

“Status cards have no place in a modern country like Canada”

The concept of status cards are based on the evil, and completely discredited notion of racial purity laws. In order to prove entitlement to a card, one must show that one is racially pure enough to qualify, or one must marry someone who is racially pure.”

The concept of racial purity harkens back to darker days. During apartheid in South Africa, people were required to carry one of three kinds of status cards: white, coloured or black. Each of these status cards contained its own set of rights. In India, during the caste years, there were even more categories of people, with differing rights. In racial America, whites and blacks had separate everything. And darkest of all was Hitler’s Germany, where a yellow star on the sleeve was your status card.

Racial purity laws and status cards have—no place—in a modern country. Period!

Status cards in Canada entitled to special financial benefits for cardholders. The list of benefits is long, the most valuable being tax exemptions and post-secondary education benefits. Any cardholder, even individuals earning six-figure incomes, do not pay income tax and can have their children’s university or college education paid in full. These benefits in some circumstances can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per individual, and there is an increasing number of the financial elite cardholders who continue to receive such benefits. No wonder some people fight so hard to keep these cards.

If allowing people to exercise their right to question and explore both the good and the bad of a trending orthodox viewpoint earns the label  as a “racist” then our society is in serious trouble.