Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler calls on all to fight bigotry
THUNDER BAY, ON: Indigenous leaders in northwestern Ontario are condemining the Dryden town council’s decision not to call for controversial Senator Lynn Beyak to resign.
The council voted Monday 5-1 against Councillor Shayne MacKinnon’s motion calling for her resignation and sparking an outcry from area Indigenous leadership.
Wednesday Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, joined with Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3) Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh condemning the City of Dryden municipal council’s refusal to support the motion condemning Conservative Senator Beyak and calling for her resignation.
NAN Grand Chief Fiddler called on all Canadians to join in the fight against bigotry. “I am very disappointed that all members of Dryden city council did not take Senator Beyak’s racist conduct seriously and declined to condemn her actions,” Fiddler said in a release.
“As leaders we must seize every opportunity to support reconciliation and speak out against racism. NAN and GCT#3 agree that it is the duty of all Canadians to stand against racism and bigotry, and that hurtful comments that ignore our shared colonial history must be denounced. Senator Beyak’s words and actions must be recognized as insulting, hurtful and in need of condemnation by all Canadians.”
Beyak came under heavy criticism for posting letters to her official Senate website defending the residential school system, then refused to remove them until under threat of suspension. She has since been suspended twice from the Senate, recently for not taking sensitivity training seriously enough in the eyes of the Senate’s oversight committee.
In a statement signed by Grand Council Treaty No. 3 political advisor Don Morriseau, the territorial leaders called the vote a disappointment.
“We believe it is the duty of all Canadians to stand against racism and bigotry in the defence of the human dignity. The hurtful comments that ignore our shared colonial legacy should not be brushed aside due to jurisdictional or semantic arguments,” the statement reads.
“Dryden is within the territory of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3 and the actions of its leadership (are) observed by all of its residents, including survivors and intergenerational survivors of the residential school system.”
The statement went on to say “Silence is support and indifference is insulting when it comes to crimes of the past.
The Conservative Party of Canada removed Bayak from caucus in January 2018.
Dryden Mayor Greg Wilson abstained from the vote, saying a number of council members felt it wasn’t within their jurisdiction to call for her removal.“To me, it was an exercise in frustration,” Wilson told Thunder Bay Television.
“What saddens me, is that this topic is so politically-divisive,” said Wilson. “I don’t think this will accomplish anything, and it’s really above my pay-grade. I’d rather focus on the affairs of the city, rather than politically-divisive matters that shouldn’t be in our municipal court here.”
He said he has consistently told Indigenous leaders that municipal leaders don’t vote on federal or provincial matters. “It’s the same reason we didn’t vote on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s three violations of the federal ethics committee, demanding that he resign. Our efforts would have been an exercise in futility.”
A 2018 petition by NAN and GCT#3 calling for Senator Beyak’s resignation received nearly 5,000 signatures. The Prime Minister cannot fire or remove a member of the Senate. A Senator might be forced to resign or be removed by her caucus due to public pressure.