delivered a controversial speech

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‘I don’t need any more education’: Senator Lynn
Beyak, residential school denialism, and attacks on
truth and reconciliation in Canada
Sean Carleton
To cite this article: Sean Carleton (2021): ‘I don’t need any more education’: Senator Lynn Beyak,
residential school denialism, and attacks on truth and reconciliation in Canada, Settler Colonial
Studies, DOI: 10.1080/2201473X.2021.1935574
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I dont need any more education: Senator Lynn Beyak,
residential school denialism, and attacks on truth and
reconciliation in Canada
Sean Carleton
Departments of History and Indigenous Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
In 2017, Lynn Beyak, a Canadian Senator, delivered a controversial
speech defending Canada
s Indian Residential School system
1996) as being well-intentioned.Made shortly after the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its
report to show Canadians the evidence of how residential
schooling for Indigenous children and youth constituted
genocide, the Senator
s speech sparked national debate. This
article historicizes and theorizes the role of denialism in colonial
settings to argue that speech acts such as Beyak
s can be
understood as a discursive strategy used by colonizers to
legitimize and defend their material power, privilege, and pro
The article examines Beyak
s public comments as well as 100
support letters she received and published on her Senate website
to show how they embrace anti-Indigenous racism generally and
employ residential school denialism speci
fically to attack and
undermine truth and reconciliation e
fforts in Canada.
Residential schools;
denialism; settler
colonialism; truth and
On 7 March 2017, Lynn Beyak delivered a controversial speech in the Canadian Senate
defending the Indian Residential School system as being
well-intentioned.In her
speech, the Conservative Senator argued that instead of dwelling on the mistreatment
and abuse experienced by many of the 150,000 Indigenous children and youth who
attended residential schools in Canada between 1883 and 1996, people should focus
on all the
goodthe schools accomplished in terms of assimilating Indigenous peoples
into Canadian society. The Senator explained that it was her intent to speak
of the kindlyresidential school staff whose remarkable worksand good
have gone unrecognized because they are too often overshadowed by negative
Though Beyak admitted that mistakes were madeat residential schools, she
used the majority of her speech to insist that an emphasis on the system
s positives
will help
Canadas native peopleto thrive as victors, not victims.1
Beyaks speech, made only a year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of
Canada (TRC) released its
final report to show Canadians the evidence of how residential
schooling constituted
cultural genocide,sparked an intense public controversy.2 The
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Sean Carleton [email protected] Department of History, 403 Fletcher Argue Building,
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis Nation, R3T 2N2

Senators attempt to put a positive spin on the system that even Stephen Harper, the
Conservative prime minister who appointed Beyak, called a
sad chapter in Canadas
’ – was not appreciated by many, including her fellow Senator and the former
chair of the TRC Murray Sinclair.
3 In response, Sinclair suggested that those engaging
in residential school denialism are
dim-wittedand pose a serious barrier to meaningful
4 Like other kinds of denialism, residential school denialism is not the outright denial of the systems existence, but rather the rejection or misrepresentation of
basic facts about residential schooling to undermine truth and reconciliation e
fforts in
5 Even the Anglican Church, which ran a third of the schools across the
country, including the Pelican Lake Residential School near Dryden, Ontario (Treaty 3 territory) where Beyak lives, made a public statement clarifying that
nothing goodcame
from the schools. The church noted that while a
small minority of survivorsspeak of
some positive school memories on an individual level, those personal experiences must
be understood as occurring in the context of a genocidal school system designed to
kill the Indian in the child.6
Despite facing wide-spread criticism for her comments, Beyak refused to apologize.
The Senator stood behind her
positiveperspective, even attacking criticism of her
speech as
fake news and exaggeration.7 When confronted by reporters, Beyak
doubled down on her defence of residential schooling, arguing
there are shining
examples from sea to sea of people who owe their lives to the schools.
When pressed
on how Indigenous peoples, especially the many former students who were mentally,
physically, and sexually abused in the schools, might feel about such statements, Beyak
Ive suffered with them I appreciate their suffering more than theyll
ever know [but] the best way to heal is to move forward together. Not to blame, not
to point
fingers, not to live in the past.Asked directly if she had read the TRC report to
fully understand the history of the schools and the intergenerational trauma still experienced by many Indigenous peoples today, Beyak quipped:
I dont need any more
The Senators comments also catalyzed further incidents of anti-Indigenous racism and
residential school denialism in Canada that historian Matthew Sears calls
The Beyak
ffect.9 After Beyaks speech, conservative pundits defended Beyak in the press, and
some people posted
ITS OK TO BE WHITEsigns as well as posters defending residential
schools on university campuses across the country that regurgitated Beyak
s denialist
talking points, including overemphasizing the system
s positive attributes and questioning the validity of the TRCs findings.10 In short, Beyaks speech emboldened some settler
Canadians to declare and defend their denialism publicly. As a result, Beyak was removed
from a Senate committee on Indigenous issues in April 2017, but she retained her seat in
the Red Chamber. While not wanting former students of residential schools to dwell on
their victimization at the hands of church and state o
fficials, Beyak quickly constructed
herself as a victim of attacks on
free speech.Beyak dug in and used her Senate
website to post the full text of her speech as well as additional personal statements
and a selection of support letters (mostly emails) that she received.
s speech, statements of defence, and the support letters she posted online in
2017 deserve critical analysis in today
s era of truth and reconciliation, a time of reckoning
with Canada
s colonial past to build stronger relations between Indigenous peoples and
11 It is tempting to stereotype those who engage in residential school
denialism as ignorant bigots or to simply ignore them. Silence, some say, starves denialists
of their sustenance: dialogue. Sinclair, however, suggests a di
fferent approach that I, as a
settler scholar committed to truth and reconciliation, build on in this article. Sinclair
argues that
it is not enough for us to simply yell at [those engaging in denialism] and
knock them down.
Instead, we must try to understand their reasoning and show that
they are wrong.
He elaborates, Ive always been convinced that while we may not
deal with all of the [denialists], we can at least take away their tools.
By challenging
the comments of high-pro
file people such as Beyak, Sinclair is hopeful that denialists
will have a diminishing population of people who will believe them.12 Sinclair, in
short, calls for a strategy of engagement to disprove and discredit denialism.
Taking away the
toolsof residential school denialism requires a better understanding
of those tools and how and why some people employ and defend them. To advance such
an understanding, this article interrogates the 2017 Beyak controversy as a way of comprehending and confronting not just Beyak
s comments but the phenomenon of residential school denialism generally. To begin, I historicize residential school denialism and
contextualize it in terms of recent literature. I also theorize denialism in relation to the
work of anti-colonial thinkers. Speci
fically, I engage with Albert Memmis psychological
portrait of the
colonizer who acceptsto highlight the role that denialism plays in justifying ongoing colonialism.13 In this context, I then analyse Beyaks comments and the 100
support letters she posted on her website, and I suggest that the denialism they deploy is
neither new nor surprising. Instead, I argue that residential school denialism and attacks
on truth and reconciliation, by Beyak and others, can be understood as a common strategy in which colonizers use denialist discourse to legitimize and defend their material
power, privilege, and pro
fit. Building on Sinclairs suggested approach, this article
shows how critical engagement with the discursive strategies
the tools that Beyak
and her followers used can help check the growing trend of residential school denialism
and support truth and reconciliation e
Historicizing residential school denialism
Residential school denialism is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, settlers downplaying the
destructive e
ffects of residential schooling for Indigenous peoples has a long history in
what is today known as Canada. Eric Taylor Woods has noted that for much of the
s 100 year history, church and state officials likened the residential schools to a
even sacred enterprise designed to save Indigenous communities
from extinction in the face of an ostensibly higher form of civilization.
14 Even when confronted with evidence of horrific conditions in many of the schools documented in the
annual reports of the Department of Indian A
ffairs (DIA), officials clung to a humanitarian
discourse and discredited the systems detractors, especially Indigenous parents who
raised concerns about the
first schools in the 1880s. In 1907, as the system was expanding
across the country, Dr. Peter Bryce, a DIA medical o
fficial, even released a report drawing
attention to the abnormally high rate of student death and disease in many residential
schools that he suggested was exacerbated by overcrowding, poor nutrition, and a lack
of proper sanitation.
15 The DIA buried the doctors report.16 As a medical expert, Bryce
tried to blow the whistle on residential schooling in its initial phase, but DIA o
chose to selectively focus on the
positiveresults the system was having or, more
correctly, that they hoped it would have in disrupting Indigenous lifeways and supporting continued settler colonialism and Canadian nation-building.17 It was not until the
1940s, argues Woods, that
the gap between the benign representation of the residential
schools and their malign reality had become so wide that it was no longer possible to
18 Even still, many officials continued to promote a positive representation of residential schooling as being well-intentioned. Despite the systems obvious failings, even
according to the DIA
s own experts, residential schools continued to operate in many
parts of Canada for another 50 years. The last school closed in 1996.
It was not until former students published accounts of their abuse at the schools and
started organizing for redress that the dominant narrative about residential schooling
started to shift. Some students admittedly recounted positive experiences, but by the
1970s and 1980s more former students were speaking out about the cruelty, abuse,
and poor conditions they endured in schools across the country.
20 As more students
spoke publicly about their negative experiences they inspired others to break their
silence too, eventually sparking a movement led by thousands of former students
seeking an apology and compensation for their time spent in the schools. With many
fficials still denying any wrongdoing in the 1980s and 1990s, 86,000 students forced
the issue by launching one of the largest class-action lawsuits in Canadian history,
which the Government of Canada chose to settle out of court by agreeing to the
Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA, 2006).
21 As part of the settlement, the federal government officially apologized to former students in 2008 and established an independent commission, which became the TRC, to research and raise national
awareness about the Indian Residential School system. As part of its research, the TRC
consulted thousands of government and church records and gathered testimony from
more than 6,000 witnesses, including school employees and many former students.
The goal of the commission was to present evidence that would
reveal to Canadians
the complex truth about the history and the ongoing legacy
of residential schooling.22
The TRC published its final report in 2015. The conclusions shocked many Canadians
but con
firmed what generations of Indigenous peoples already understood:
For over a century, the central goals of Canadas Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of
assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools
were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as
cultural genocide.23
The commission made clear, however, that shaming and pointing out wrongdoingwas
not the TRC
s mandate. Instead, the focus on truth determination was intended to lay the
foundation for the important question of reconciliation.
24 According to the report, reconciliation requires an understanding that the most harmful impacts of residential schools
have been the loss of pride and self-respect of Aboriginal people, and the lack of respect
that non-Aboriginal people have been raised to have for their Aboriginal neighbours.
commissioners thus emphasized,
Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one.25 Many Canadians have embraced the challenge put forward by the TRC and
are, in di
ffering ways, engaged in reckoning with Canadas colonial past to build new
relationships of mutual respect with Indigenous peoples to aid reconciliation.
26 Others,
however, are choosing to downplay, dispute, and/or discredit the commission
findings to reject reconciliation and defend the colonial status quo. To be sure,
confronting the legacies of genocide and committing to what Stó:l
ō writer Lee Maracle
continued growth and transformationis not easy, but it is the task that Indigenous
and non-Indigenous peoples living in what is currently Canada are being challenged to
undertake in the era of truth and reconciliation.
Theorizing residential school denialism
Scholarship in the fields of genocide studies, Indigenous studies, and setter colonial
studies can help shed light on how di
fferent countries around the world, including
Canada, are dealing with the legacies of genocide and addressing the phenomenon of
denialism speci
fically. In terms of better understanding the relationship between genocide and denialism, Adam Jones argues that the manipulation of memory and history
often occurs in the aftermath of genocides. In looking at Germany
s grappling with the
Jewish Holocaust, he shows how a
wilful amnesiaand politicized forgettingemerged
in the immediate post-war period that served to distance the country and its citizens
from its recent Nazi past. In re
flecting on the psychology of denialism, Jones argues
individual and collective narcissism play a pivotal role in buttressing denial; in
many contexts a denialist stance heads o
ff cognitive dissonance between ones preferred
view of self and country, and the grimmer reality.
He also points out that there is also
usually an element of material self-interest
in denialism.28 Canadian genocide scholars
such as Andrew Woolford and David B. MacDonald agree. They argue that Canada
s treatment of Indigenous peoples, particularly in regards to the Indian Residential School
system, constitutes genocide, a fact some Canadians refuse to acknowledge to avoid
feeling guilty and responsible for redress.
29 Denialism can thus be understood as part
of a conscious or unconscious strategy of selectively remembering the past to protect
s power and privilege in the present and, most importantly, to perpetuate it into
the future.
Insights from genocide studies overlap with lessons from Indigenous studies and
settler colonial studies on the role of denialism in colonial settings. Gina Starblanket
and Dallas Hunt contend that Canadians are in denial about the past and present of
settler colonialism. They argue that Canadians seek refuge in myths of benevolence
that justify colonial policy towards Indigenous peoples as being well-intentioned, even
30 Indeed, Maracle argues that Canadians have a myth [of innocence] about
themselves, and it seems this myth is inviolable.
31 To be Canadian, according to
is to be sunk in deep denial.32 Leanne Betasamosake Simpson contends that
large number of Canadians will do everything they can [including perpetuating colonial mythology] to preserve the social, cultural, and economic systems of the country,
even though this system is predicated on violence and dispossession of Indigenous
lands and bodies.
33 Similarly, settler scholars such as Eva Mackey, Emma Battell
Lowman, and Adam J. Barker argue that Canadians must embrace the transformative possibilities of reconciliation by
unsettlingthe myths of Canada as the Peaceable Kingdom
and challenging fantasies of entitlementthat some settlers use to legitimize their right
to lands and resources.34 In particular, Paulette Regan contends that understanding the
history and ongoing legacies of residential schooling o
ffers Canadians an openinginto
the work of reconciliation that can facilitate dialogue and help to build reciprocal
relationships with Indigenous peoples.35 Framed in this way, reconciliation and reckoning
with residential school history is a challenge
and an opportunity. Nevertheless, Maracle
notes that many Canadians
tend towards defensivenessand choose to engage in denialism as a defensive strategy to protect their privileges.36
To further theorize the role of denialism in colonial societies, it is also helpful to turn to
the works of anti-colonial thinkers. Writing in response to global decolonization movements after the Second World War, authors such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and
Albert Memmi o
ffered numerous meditations on the psychology of colonialism and decolonization.37 Anti-colonial theory offers a window into the ways in which those living in
colonial settlings rationalize injustice to themselves and how these psychological strategies help to legitimize and perpetuate colonialism. In particular, Memmi
s The Colonizer
and the Colonized
, which consists of psychological portraits of the colonizerand the
, is insightful because it looks at the role of denialism in legitimizing colonialism
as commonsensical.
While scholars such as Emma LaRocque have related Memmi
s Portrait of the Colonizedto Indigenous struggles in Canada, for the purposes of this article I will focus on
s Portrait of the Colonizerand its applicability to settler Canadians.38 Memmi
argues that colonizers are daily confronted with the illegitimacy of their status.
Whether colonizers are immigrants or are born in the colonies, they are always, even if
only subconsciously, plagued by the question: what entitles me to live here? In the
back of their minds they understand that their home is not really
their home. It is their
on native land; it is not their native land. Indeed, colonizers are implicitly cognisant
that coercion, theft, and bloody violence only recently cleared
and in some cases still
the way for them to travel to and take root in a new land. Moreover, fears
about retribution and revenge by the colonized, often fuelled by news of anti-colonial
protests,’ ‘riots,and rebellionsfrom around the colony and across the globe, stoke a
kind of ever-present anxiety.
39 In an attempt to resolve these unsettled feelings, colonizers devise and deploy different discursive strategies to protect their position of material
privilege and to prove to themselves and to others the righteousness of their existence.
In addition to enacting speci
fic laws and creating institutions such as ghettos, prisons,
and schools to contain and control the colonized physically, Memmi contends that colonizers invent and invest themselves in mythology and racist stereotypes that they then
propagate through various channels, including art and entertainment, and the writing
of history. As Memmi
s contemporary Fanon once remarked, the colonist makes
history, and he knows it.
40 Accordingly, colonizers make films and paintings and they
write books, plays, and poems that bolster the supposed superiority of the colonizer
while simultaneously degrading and dehumanizing the colonized.
41 Colonizers produce
new knowledge and disseminate it in various ways to rationalize the oppressive colonial
relationship that underpins their material prosperity as natural, inevitable, and, most
importantly, unchangeable, something scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang call
settler futurity.42
Although Memmi argues that all colonizers benefit from the colonial situation, he
notes the di
fferent behaviour of two main groups: the colonizer who refusesand the
colonizer who accepts.
The colonizer who refuses comes to the realization that colonialism is deeply unjust and vows to challenge the oppression of the colonized and to fight
for their freedom. This is no easy task because the liberation of the colonized requires
colonizers to challenge and question the legitimacy of the colonial project and thus their
own existence. The colonizer
s freedom is facilitated by the unfreedom of the colonized.
Ending this unequal relationship works against the colonizer
s own self-interest, and
advocating for such a radical rupture can result in being ostracized by both the colonized
who see all colonizers as oppressors and by other colonizers, who see those who
as traitors and turncoats.43 As a result, Memmi contends that most colonizers
simply resign themselves to embrace colonialism and its bene
fits, becoming colonizers
who accept.’ ‘Justiceand equalityin the colonies are threatening concepts to colonizers
who acceptbecause their prosperity is predicated on prejudice and rooted in ongoing
oppression of the colonized. As a result, denialism is an especially powerful tool employed
by colonizers
who accept.Memmi argues that
to possess victory completely [colonizers] absolve [themselves] of it and the conditions under
which it is attained. This explains [their] strenuous insistence, strange for [victors], on apparently futile matters. [They endeavour] to falsify history, [they rewrite] laws, [they] would extinguish memories
anything to succeed in transforming [their] usurpation into legitimacy.44
Moreover, Memmi suggests that colonizers’ ‘disquiet and resulting thirst for justification
requires them to extol the virtues of their righteousness to the skies and to drive the
usurped below the ground at the same time.
Properly historicized and theorized, denialism can be understood as an effective tool
for protecting the status quo in colonial settings, including in Canada. Rather than
unsettlethe history of Canada and confront the ongoing legacies of colonization, including
things like residential schools, some Canadians are employing the tools of Memmi
the colonizer who accepts: they deploy a denialist discourse that justifies their existence
through a combination of degrading Indigenous peoples and clinging to selective and
self-congratulatory accounts of the past that they think absolves them of wrongdoing
and justi
fies their lack of support for reconciliation. In this way, Senator Beyaks comments
defending residential schooling can be seen as a strategy
a tool for downplaying the
injustices of the past and present to safeguard colonial power and privilege in the unsettling time of truth and reconciliation.
Analysing Beyaks Senate speech
Drawing on the insights outlined above, I now return to analyse the 2017 Beyak controversy. I start by examining Beyaks speech in the Senate addressing several timely indigenous issues.The Senators speech promoted a whole host of ignorant and incorrect views
about Indigenous peoples, including her belief that, on balance, residential schooling
should be considered bene
ficial for Indigenous peoples. In the speech, Beyak used false
’ – a form of bias, often used by denialists, that suggests an issue is more balanced
between opposing views than the evidence shows
to contend that the goodand bad
are equal parts of the whole residential school story.46 She explained that people only focus
on the
badfor political reasons and noted that it was her duty to stick up for the other
The problem with Beyaks premise is that it is not supported by evidence. Her
equal weighting of
goodand badreveals her misunderstanding of the historical consensus: that the problems of the Indian Residential School system were systemic.47 The issue
was not only the individual cases of neglect and abuse, but that for over one hundred
years the government colluded with churches to operate a genocidal system that removed
children from their families, often by force, to undercut and attack Indigenous lifeways to
support colonization and Canadian nation-building. Whether some former students recall
positive experiences, or whether employees had benevolent intentions, does not change
the genocidal e
ffects of the system, as scholars such as MacDonald have outlined.48
Like Memmis colonizer who accepts,however, Beyak was not concerned with the
weight of historical evidence. Instead, her comments misrepresented residential school
history in ways that absolved those involved, downplayed the system
s disastrous
ffects, and championed the system overall. Beyak began her speech by launching a
defence of Canadian politicians such as John A. Macdonald and Hector-Louis Langevin,
who she felt were unfairly identi
fied in the TRC report as the architectsof the residential school system. She supported her position by pointing to boarding schools for Indigenous children being in existence for decadesbefore Macdonald and Langevin
became government o
fficials. As a result, Beyak argued that these founding fathers
should not be held responsible for starting residential schooling. What Beyak saw as
a smoking gun was actually proof that she had not read, or at least did not understand, the TRC
s report. In fact, the first volume of the TRCs report clearly acknowledges the existence of early ad hoc boarding schools for Indigenous children, but
shows how politicians such as Macdonald, supported by
figures like Langevin, drew
on those examples in the late 1870s and early 1880s to call for, establish, and
defend a national network of federally-funded and church-run schools that became
the o
fficial Indian Residential School system.49
Beyak also argued that in signing the Numbered Treaties on the Prairies in the 1870s
and 1880s, Indigenous peoples expressed a
universal demandfor education. She points
to this desire, and quotes Indigenous parents asking for education, as if to apologize for
the government and churches delivering and defending a genocidal school system for
over 100 years. As well, Beyak misrepresented residential school statistics to downplay
the system
s effects. She argued that only 31.1 per cent of the school-aged Aboriginal
children were in residential schools. That also means that 68.9 per cent were not.
Beyak used this statistic out of context; these figures, taken from the TRC report, were
from just one year (1944
1945) and do not reflect accurate attendance percentages at
the system
s peak in 19561957 or for the system as a whole.51 Lastly, as if to undermine
her earlier points, she argued that even if the schools were harmful, the system
s intentions were good and that all should be forgiven in an effort to move forward: As with
everything in life, forgiveness will go a long way in the process of reconciliation.
concluded the speech by encouraging her fellow Senators not to fall sway to attempts
rewrite history,and she argued that a hopeful future is better than a troubled
52 In the mould of Memmis portrait of colonizers who accept,Beyaks speech
used denialism to misrepresent the history of residential schooling and undermine con
fidence in the TRCs report and calls to action.
Analysing Beyaks statements of defence and support letters
The discursive strategies of colonizers who acceptare also on display in Beyaks brief
statements of defence and the many support letters she received and posted online.
On the 6 April 2017, a month after her speech, Beyak used her Senate website to
release a statement to thank all the people who have written and phoned me in the past
few weeks to express their support.
’ ‘Too often,Beyak wrote,
a vocal minority cries foul and offence whenever a point of view is raised that does not align
with their own. Meanwhile the silent majority, who are contributing to this country by
working, building, and selling things, taking care of their parents and children, are left thinking they are alone.
Beyak concluded the statement with a message to her supporters: You are not alone. You
are the majority as has been shown to me with all the support I have received. I will continue to represent you and your views on Parliament Hill.
53 The controversy only
strengthened Beyak
s commitment to denialism.
Though proudly proclaiming that the majority of Canadians supported her position
based on the
avalanche of supportshe received, the Senator was cagy when pressed
for evidence of that support.
54 Beyak claimed to have received seven hundred letters
that overwhelmingly supported her views. A subsequent investigation by the Senate
Ethics O
fficer revealed that the Senator actually received 6,766 letters. Of that total
number, only 2,389 supported Beyak, while 4,282, the majority, were critical of the
55 After promising to make all of the letters publicly available, Beyak only published a handful of these statements online in 2017, a total of 129. For all of Beyaks
instance on maintaining
balancein the residential school dialogue, she only published
letters that unequivocally supported her comments. The support letters need more critical
analysis, especially because the 100 anonymous letters dated between 8 March and 11
April 2017, in the month after Beyak
s speech, openly engaged in residential school denialism.56 To better understand and examine the content of Beyaks support letters and to
show how the writers used the tools of denialism, I cluster and analyse the comments,
drawing on Cheryl Gaver
s work on residential school denialism, into three broad categories: (1) personal knowledge, (2) ignorance and anti-Indigenous racism, and (3) worldviews-in-collision.57 The following examination reveals that those writing to support
Beyak drew from all three categories to advance denialism in ways consistent with
s profile of colonizers who accept.
(1) Personal knowledge
Many of Beyaks support letters defended residential schooling based on various kinds of
personal knowledge in keeping with what Tuck and Yang refer to as
moves to innocence.58 Some authors admitted to having direct experience working in the schools,
and it is clear they were taking refuge in Beyak
s comments and seeking absolution for
themselves and family members. The very
first letter commendsthe Senator for
balanceto the historical perspective of Residential Schoolsby emphasizing
‘“the goodthat many dedicated educators accomplished over the years.The author,
Richard, had
a combined experience of 26 years in Aboriginal and Metis schoolsand witnessed first-hand the positive anecdotes and experiences of those who gained from their
attendance at Residential Schools.
59 Others wrote to defend family members. Remi
As the brother of a nun who worked in the system, and the nephew of a jesuit [sic] who
worked there too, I categorically refuse to believe that all the people who worked in these
schools were as evil as they are being portrayed to be. Indeed, They [sic] were seeking, under
the social rules that were generally accepted at the time to do good, and to help these
Similarly, D wrote to thank Beyak for making a public announcement about the positive
contributions which some people made while working in residential schools.
The author
My grandfather was the headmaster of a Residential School (Anglican) for over
40 years.
The author admitted, I realize that some of the governmental policies he had to
follow brought discomfort to the children who attended the school,
before clarifying, but
there is no evidence of abuse or any wrongdoing by my grandfather.
While some authors defended their work or the work of family members in residential
schools, others spoke of their positive observations and personal experiences with Indigenous peoples and residential schooling. Janice wrote to Beyak and explained,
My husband has worked and lived in several aboriginal communities in the north which
greatly bene
fitted from these schools and where the people speak very highly of the care
and instruction they received. We are only given one side of the story.
Theresa wrote, I personally saw a lot of good emanate from these schools.63 Bob worked
Ontarios Far Northfor 27 years in healthcare and argued, based on his experience,
the effort was well intentioned at the time.64 Another writer, A, lived and
in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan for many years and had the opportunity to
meet retired teachers of residential schools.
Based on the stories of these former residential school employees, the author concluded that they were all good, hardworking and
well intentioned people.
65 Similarly, R wrote: I know from first hand experience that
the Residential schools provided a lot of good.
66 Finally, Marcia once attended an Indigenous art exhibition in Fort McMurry, Alberta where she met a native artist who told
me how grateful she was to the nuns and priests in her community who ran the
67 All of these writers gained personal knowledge from former employees or students who spoke favourably about their time in residential schools, and thus they have a
hard time accepting the truth about the system
s genocidal effects.68
Other authors experienced poor treatment at public schools for settler children and felt
that the attention being paid to the abuse experienced by Indigenous students in residential schools is overblown.
69 Charles noted in his letter, They talk about abuse, but I can tell
you that the country school I attended in the 40s was not a model of civility. Abuse was
directed at me because of my families [
sic] religion.70 Similarly, Ben explained: Everyone
is talking about these physically and sexually abused aboriginal children, when the same
was going on, granted perhaps to a lesser degree, in many schools throughout Canada.

Ben attended a religious college in Ontario where one of his friends was sexually
assaulted by a professor
and that same professor actually attempted to abuse me on
a visit to our home once.
71 Ardell argued that Many [teachers] were doing their best
to do good.
He then recounted a personal story of corporal punishment at school in
the 1940s and 1950s where
the strap was routinely employed as a disciplinary
and he argued, while we now look on these measures as brutal, they were
quite normal for the times.
72 Richard also had personal experience of abuse at school.
In 1953/54 being in grades 3 and 4,he explained, I often got the strap and had my
hair pulled for unknown
infractionsas did many others in my class . Thats just the
way it was then.
73 Instead of using personal experience and knowledge of abuse and
punishment in schools to develop empathy for Indigenous peoples, these authors felt
that because their experiences were not being recognized, Indigenous experiences of
abuse should be diminished.
Lastly, some writers commended Beyak for talking about the
goodof residential
schooling simply because it reduced their feelings of discomfort and culpability. Robert
the implication that I am somehow responsible for any of the collective abuses suffered by
some of the children that were associated with these schools. With a very few exceptions,
Residential Schools had been closed long before I was born.
Vic encouraged Beyak not to be intimidated by the righteous stampedeand argues: It
was a di
fferent time. Thinking was different but that doesnt mean that all intentions
where [
sic] bad and evil . We are not necessarily responsible for the actions of our forefathers.75 Bill also distanced himself from residential schooling. Please do not apologize
for me,
he wrote, I was not there.76 Terry explained, History is full of past injustices and I
feel no personal responsibility for the plight of
first nations.77 Overall, in the mould of
s colonizers who accept,many letter writers drew on differing kinds of personal
knowledge and experience to downplay the negative consequences of residential schooling and diminish feelings of personal responsibility for the ongoing legacies of colonial
injustice as a way of protecting the status quo and rebu
ffing calls for reconciliation.
(2) Ignorance and anti-Indigenous racism
Other letter writers supported Beyaks stance on residential schooling because the Senators denialism created space for them to voice their own ignorant views about Indigenous peoples and openly perpetuate anti-Indigenous racism. As Memmi, Lowman and
Barker, and Arthur Manuel contend, ignorance and racism work to create indi
towards or to actively demean the colonized to justify the unequal relations of colonial
78 In terms of displaying ignorant views, Beyaks support letters are full of incorrect assumptions. Kevin wrote, Your remarks to the effect that teachers and leaders
involved in the programme were by and large well intentioned are obviously true. It
too bad you are under attack for speaking truthfully.
79 Similarly, C wrote to support
Beyak and explained,
I feel that the current dialogue re: this part of our history is grotesquely unbalanced. You are
right to mention that it was neither the residential school employees or government [
intention to be cruel or to wipe out an entire race.
Again, the TRC report, drawing on historical research, presents the evidence to show that
while not all employees were cruel, many were and the government
s clear intention was
to use the system to
kill the Indian in the childrenand bring about the end of Indigenous
lifeways through coerced assimilation.
81 Like Beyak, writers such as Kevin and C rely
on personal belief, eschew historical evidence, and fundamentally fail to grasp a systemic
critique of residential schooling in an e
ffort to defend the system and the colonial
status quo.
More concerning is the large number of letter writers who felt emboldened by Beyak
comments to espouse anti-Indigenous racism. These authors were openly hostile to Indigenous peoples. In accordance with Memmi
s colonizers who accept,these writers
engaged in racism to degrade and dehumanize Indigenous peoples, using the darkest
colours to depict them.
82 In classic victim blaming, some writers positioned Indigenous
peoples as the problem, not the ongoing e
ffects of residential schools and intergenerational trauma. Bob argued that residential schooling was well intentioned at the time
and that Aboriginal peoples must not look to residential schools as the only reason for
social dysfunction.
83 Paul argued that immigrants to Canada should be enviousof the
pampered aboriginalswho get free school, free food, free housing.He defended his
Im no anthropologist but it seems every opportunistic culture, subsistence hunter/gathers
seeks to get what they can for no e
ffort. There is always a clash between an industrial/organized farming culture that values effort as opposed to a culture that will sit and wait until the
government gives them stu
ff. Until that happens it appears they will let everyone around
them die. It
s [sic] brutal way to live but thats how it looks to me .I am not saying all of
them are like that but right now the Canadian society guilt trip route to more money and
power is golden and being opportunistic they
re grabbing all the hotel room towels and
silver ware [
sic] they can.84
Maracle attributes these kinds of ignorant and racist comments to the influence of
s myth of benevolence, that Canadians somehow kindly gave us [Indigenous
peoples] things; they were kind to us.
Maracle points out, however, that the reality is
that Canada has seized vast land tracts
. Canada took all the land but the [small]
reserves it set aside for us.
Paul was not the only writer to use openly hostile, anti-Indigenous racism in his letter.
Heinz argued,
If not for these devoted nuns, countless Indians would have continued to
live in squalor and poverty. The intent was clearly to enable these children and adolescents to live productive lives in Canadian society.
86 Allan noted, Without a doubt in
some cases these schools led to a better life for some, quite possibly from alcohol
related abuse at home.
87 R also used racism to apologize for residential schooling: I
often wonder what problems they would have today if no one learned to read or write
no sports who would be naïve to think that, alcohol, drugs, incest would not have
found it
s [sic] way into the lives of the Norths children.The author, seemingly
unaware of the role of colonialism and intergenerational trauma in many of these
issues, then claimed:
Its far to [sic] easy to blame everything on the white man and
their residential schools for the way some of the native people are still acting today.
These comments typify how some writers, catalyzed by Beyak, combined ignorance
and racism to excuse the negative e
ffects of residential schooling and, like Memmis colonizer who accepts,justify ongoing colonialism.
(3) Worldviews-in-collision
Though many of the support letters Beyak received used personal knowledge or ignorant
and racist views to downplay the negative e
ffects of residential schooling, others simply
asserted the need for continued assimilation to force Indigenous peoples to participate in
Canadian society. As Memmi argues, the inner torment of illegitimacy
pushes the usurper
to go one step further; to wish the disappearance of the usurped.
89 Many of Beyaks letter
writers cannot
or are unwilling to comprehend that Indigenous peoples have their
own cultures, languages, spiritualties, and economic practices that residential schooling
deliberately and systematically sought to eliminate, eradicate, and replace, borrowing the
language of Patrick Wolfe.
90 Simply put, many letter writers lamented the closure of residential schools because they saw assimilation as a beneficent project of civilizing Indigenous peoples. Starblanket and Hunt argue that colonizers use their ethnocentric worldview
to advance narrow solutions to social problems that ultimately bene
fit them without considering or caring how it might affect Indigenous peoples.91 Building on Tuck and Yang,
Lowman and Barker describe this kind of behaviour as
moves to comfort,or irrational or
illogical statements
that do not invoke innocence but rather dispel fearand restore the
of being conveniently ignorant of the harms of colonization.92 In this regard,
Linda wrote to Beyak:
Like you, I believe the institution of Residential Schools was well intentioned and was an
attempt to solve the
Indian Problemby integrating the children into the new way of life
in order that they could function better with language, health, and skills.
Similarly, Terry asserted: Certainly, the decision to assimilate first nations into Canada was
and remains the correct one.
94 B took it further suggesting: I think residential schools
were an [
sic] noble and honest attempt to treat natives as equals and integrate the community into the new productive, rewarding Canadian life.95 Grace combined racism and
assimilationist rhetoric to suggest,
When the youth can no longer find a reason for effort in the cultural vacuum of the reservations and then lead a life of dissipation, racial snobbishness and prejudice should not
prevent them from participating in
our culture. And education is the key, as it always has
been e.g. the residential schools.
In My Conversations with Canadians, Maracle argues that Canada is steepedin a kind of
mythological madnessthat often manifests in denialism. She explains, Canada views
itself as the nicest colonizer in the world. It does not ask the colonized if they agree
with this, Canadians just keep repeating it to each other like bobbleheads that can
stop bobbling.
Moreover, many letter writers saw assimilation, not reconciliation, as offering the blueprint for Canadas future. Epitomizing Memmis colonizers who acceptand embracing
Lowman and Barker
s moves to comfort,these authors suggested that Indigenous
people simply need to accept, and even be thankful for, colonization. Don wrote,
Everyone of these Indian leaders bleating and shouting for your resignation are a product of
the residential school system, and in fashion veri
fies what the agencies of the day, had in
mind, and were trying to accomplish, and did very successfully.
Gordon combined racism and paternalism in his support for assimilation, How do we help
end the disease and poverty of
first nations [sic] people? The notion that they lived in
idyllic circumstances in nature is ludicrous. They needed help to be brought into the
twentieth century.
99 Lorraine argued, We must not judge past intentions and behaviours
using today
s standards. We must forgive and get on with improving conditions for all
Indigenous peoples.
100 Bryan agreed: Lets [sic] leave the past in the past, learn from it
and lets [
sic] move forward as Canadians.101 Barry looked positively on residential
schools and the 1969 White Paper, which advocated assimilation, and lamented:
Had it
succeeded we presumably would have less exclusionary rhetoric (
nation to nation)
and more of an inclusionary perspective (
one nation) in our contemporary discussion of
aboriginal issues.102 Roy personified the unquestioned acceptance of assimilation by
defending residential schools in the most self-centred, ethnocentric way possible:
fact is that, there are two good things that came out of the res. Schools. When I see an
aboriginal person I can talk to him or her. They can operate in
our modern world.103
The author then concluded, Please hang in there and do not let the fools who think
they can implement all of the recommendations of the [TRC] committee. It would
our nation.104 These writers promoted the merits of forced assimilation, and
defended residential schooling and attacks on Indigenous lifeways generally, as immensely bene
ficial to Canada and Canadians because, as Maracle points out, it protects the
colonial status quo.
Whether through personal knowledge, ignorance and anti-Indigenous racism, or a
belief in assimilation as bene
ficent or a combination of these Beyaks supporters
employed denialism to distance themselves from the e
ffects of residential schooling
and to defend colonization as commonsensical. Engaging in denialism allows colonizers
to cling to myths about Canada and its history of colonization to protect their power and
privilege in the present and future. As Tuck and Yang suggest, settlers defend such delusions, consciously or unconsciously, to safeguard the colonial status quo and guarantee
settler futurity. Indeed, Memmi explains that this kind of behaviour reassures colonizers
who acceptthat colonization is eternal,and it encourages them to look towards their
future without worries of any kind.106
In January 2018, almost a year after Beyak made her controversial speech in the Senate
and posted her statements of defense and support letters online, journalist Robert
Jago brought greater public attention to Beyak
s use of her website to hold space for residential school denialism. In particular, Jago challenged the content of the support letters
and questioned why Beyak was allowed to use a Senate website to give a platform to
ignorant and racist comments about Indigenous peoples in the era of truth and reconciliation.
107 As a result of Jagos efforts and the public outrage by some Canadians unaware
of the letters and their sentiments, the Leader of the Conservative Party at the time,
Andrew Scheer, kicked Beyak out the Conservative caucus noting,
Racism will not be tolerated in the Conservative Caucus or Conservative Party of Canada.108 In addition, 4 Senators made complaints to Pierre Legault, the Senate Ethics Officer, about Beyaks website
and the support letters that speci
fically contained overt anti-Indigenous racism. The complaints triggered a formal investigation.
In March 2019, Legault
s report concluded that Beyaks conduct breached sections of the
Ethics and Con
flict of Interest Code for Senators, and the Senator was suspended indefinitely. Beyak was given a number of opportunities to be reinstated, contingent on her
making a public apology among other remedies. She eventually removed all of the
support letters from her website, but Beyak failed to meet the conditions for her formal reinstatement. In December 2020, Senator Mary Jane McCallum announced her intention to
introduce a motion in the Senate to permanently expel Beyak from the Red Chamber.
Faced with the prospect of loosing her pension if expelled, Beyak announced her early
retirement from the Senate in January 2021. On her way out, the Senator showed no
remorse. Instead, she doubled down on denialism in a
final press release:
Some have criticized me for stating the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should
be recognized. I stand by that statement. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth
and Reconciliation report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as
In explaining why she felt that Beyak did not deserve to be a Senator, McCallum, herself a
residential school survivor, argued that the Senate was
no place for racism.110
This article has shown that those engaged in residential school denialism are not
dim-whitedracists. Building on Sinclairs suggestion to try to understand denialists and take away their tools, I argue that residential school denialism can be best understood as a discursive strategy used by colonizers who acceptto justify colonization and
protect the power, privilege, and pro
fit they are afforded in Canadas capitalist settler
society. As Indigenous scholars such as LaRocque and Starblanket and Hunt point out,
who acceptdegrade Indigenous peoples and cling to myths and self-congratulatory accounts of Canadas colonial past that suggest colonization is not only beneficent but also an admirable, humanitarian project that is well-intentioned and should
not be abandoned.
Seeking shelter in delusions and untruths allows denialists to insulate themselves from
the critical self-re
flection that could bring about an awareness of their own complicity in
s colonial injustice and cultivate a willingness to change. This strategy, however, is
a false refuge. As writers like Manuel argue, downplaying the injustices of the colonial past
and present prevents settlers from participating in reconciliation and e
fforts to build reciprocal relations with Indigenous peoples that could resolve settlerscrisis of legitimacy
and help them to live in the lands currently called Canada in better ways.
112 Denialism
deepens the divide between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians and contributes
to the growing gulf between truth and reconciliation. N
êhiyaw political scientist Kiera
Ladner argues that
reconciliation is not a great big hug [It] requires settler society
to acknowledge and accept some really uncomfortable truths about how they acquired
their privileges.
113 Similarly, Simpson contends that what Indigenous peoples really
need is for Canadians
to help themselves, to learn to struggle and to understand that their great country of Canada
has been and is a death dance for Indigenous peoples. They must learn to stop themselves
from plundering the land and the climate and using Indigenous peoples
bodies to fuel their
economy, and to
find a way of living in the world that is not based on violence and
Thus, contrary to the claims of denialists such as Beyak that they do not need any more
to facilitate meaning reconciliation we need more knowledge about settler
colonialism and a greater understanding of residential schooling and its ongoing
1. Lynn Beyak, The Senators Speech in the SenateMarch 7, 2017Residential School, http://
(accessed February 1, 2019).
2. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the
Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
(Toronto: James Lorimer & Company Ltd, 2015), 1.
3. Government of Canada, House of Commons Debates, 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, Edited
142, no. 110, June 11, 2008,
(accessed May 1, 2020).
Senator Murray Sinclair Responds to Lynn Beyaks Defence of Residential Schools, CBC News,
March 29, 2017,; Brett Forester, Residential school deniers, white supremacists biggest
barrier to reconciliation says Murray Sinclair
, APTN News, January 12, 2021, https://www.
5. Drawing on science research, denialism can be understood as
the employment of rhetorical
arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, an approach
that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scienti
fic consensus exists.
Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee argue that in responding to denialists, it is necessary
to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny
the tactics they employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.
Pascal Diethelm and
Martin McKee,
Denialism: What is it and How Should Scientists Respond, European Journal of
Public Health
, 29 (January 2009): 24. For more on scholarly responses to denialism, see Philip
Schmid and Cornelia Betsch,
Effective Strategies for Rebutting Science Denialism in Public
, Nature Human Behaviour 3 (2019): 9319.
6. The Anglican Church of Canada,
There Was Nothing Good: An Open Letter to Canadian
Senator Lynn Beyak
, March 10, 2017,
7. John Paul Tasker,
Senator Beyak Stands By Residential School Remarks, Cites Fake News,”’
CBC News, March 16, 2017,
8. John Paul Tasker,
Senator Lynn Beyak Says She Has SufferedWith Residential School Survivors, CBC News, March 27, 2017,
9. See Justin Blake,
‘“The Beyak Effect: Fighting Anti-Indigenous Racism and Settler Denialism
in Canada
, APTN, February, 21 2018,
10. See Conrad Black,
Pull Yourselves Together, SenatorsDon Meredith and Lynn Beyak Dont
Deserve to be Kicked Out
, National Post, March 17, 2017,
; ‘“RacistPosters Removed from University of New Brunswick Campus,
Global News, January 17, 2018,
Reconciliationis an admittedly contested concept. See, for example, Michael Asch, John
Borrows, and James Tully, eds.
Resurgence and Reconciliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations
and Earth Teachings
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018).
Senator Murray Sinclair Responds to Lynn Beyaks Defence of Residential Schools, CBC News,
March 29, 2017,
13. See Albert Memmi,
The Colonizer and the Colonized (Boston: Beacon, 1991), 4576.
14. Eric Taylor Woods,
On the Making of a National Tragedy: The Transformation of the Meaning
of the Indian Residential Schools
, in Power Through Testimony: Reframing Residential Schools
in the Age of Reconciliation
, eds. Brieg Capitaine and Karine Vanthuyne (Vancouver: UBC Press,
2017), 29.
15. See P.H. Bryce,
Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the North West Territories (Ottawa:
Government Printing Bureau, 1907).
16. Bryce later published his report independently. See P.H. Bryce,
The Story of a National Crime:
Being an Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada
(Ottawa: James Hope and Sons Ltd., 1922).
17. For more on Bryce
s efforts, see John S. Milloy, A National Crime: The Canadian Government
and the Residential School System
(Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2017), 9091.
18. Woods,
On the Making of a National Tragedy, 35.
19. For more on the history of residential schooling see, for example, J. R. Miller, Shingwauks
Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996);
A National Crime; Barnard Schissel and Terry Wotherspoon, The Legacy of School for
Aboriginal People: Education, Oppression, and Emancipation
(Don Mills: Oxford University
Press, 2003); Ian Mosby,
Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 19421954,
Histoire sociale/Social History, 91 (May 2013): 145172; and Mary Jane Logan McCallum, ‘“I
Would Like the Girls at Home
: Domestic Labour and the Age of Discharge at Canadian
Indian Residential Schools
, in Colonization and Domestic Service: Historical and Contemporary
eds. Victoria Haskins and Claire Lowry (New York: Routledge, 2014), 191209.
20. Woods,
On the Making of a National Tragedy, 401. For early accounts that were positive see,
for example, Edward Ahenakew,
Little Pine: An Indian Day School, Saskatchewan History 18,
no. 2 (1965): 55
62; and Louise Moine, My Life in a Residential School (Regina: Provincial
Chapter I.O.D.E., Saskatchewan, in cooperation with the Provincial Library of Saskatchewan),
1975. For more critical accounts see, for example, Basil Johnston,
Indian School Days (Toronto:
Key Porter Books, 1988); Theodore Fontaine,
Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools (Victoria: Heritage, 2010); and Bev Sellars, They Called Me Number One: Secrets and
Survival at an Indian Residential School
(Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2013).
21. On the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, see J.R. Miller,
Residential Schools
and Reconciliation
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017), 125150.
22. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the
, 23. On how Canada has addressed ongoing issues related to residential schooling,
including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, see Ronald Niezen,
Truth and Indignation:
s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017); Brieg Capitaine and Karine Vanthuyne, eds, Power Through Testimony; David B. MacDonald, The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential
Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).
23. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the
Future, v.
24. Ibid., vi.
25. Ibid.
26. See, for example, Mary McNally and Debbie Martin,
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Health: Considerations for Canadian Health Leaders in the Wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report, Healthcare Management Forum, 30 (2, 2017): 11722; and Adam
Gaudry and Danielle Lorenz,
Indigenization as Inclusion, Reconciliation, and Decolonization:
Navigating the Di
fferent Visions for indigenizing the Canadian Academy, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 14 (30, 2018): 21827.
27. Lee Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians (Toronto: Book Thug, 2017), 78.
28. Adam Jones,
Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2006), 352.
29. Scholars such as Andrew Woolford have published numerous studies situating Canada
treatment of Indigenous peoples in the
field of genocide studies. See, for example,
Andrew Woolford,
Ontological Destruction: Genocide and Canadian Aboriginal Peoples,
Genocide and Prevention 4, 1 (April 2009): 8197; and Andrew Woolford, This Benevolent
: Indigenous Boarding Schools, Genocide and Redress in North America (Winnipeg:
University of Manitoba Press, 2015). See also MacDonald,
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, 1467.
30. Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt,
Storying Violence: Unravelling Colonial Narratives in the
Stanley Trial
(Winnipeg: ARP, 2020), 679.
31. Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 10.
32. Ibid., 27.
33. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson,
As We Have Always Been: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 101.
34. Eva Mackey,
Unsettled Expectations: Uncertainty, Land, and Settler Decolonization (Halifax and
Winnipeg: Fernwood Press, 2016), 9. See also, Elizabeth Furniss,
The Burden of History: Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community (Vancouver: University of British
Columbia Press, 1999); Paulette Regan, Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools,
Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada
(Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010); and Emma Battell
Lowman and Adam J. Barker,
Settler: Identity and Colonialism in the 21st Century (Winnipeg:
Fernwood, 2015), 44
35. Regan,
Unsettling the Settler Within, 611.
36. Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 58.
37. See, for example, Aimé Césaire
, Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press,
1972); Frantz Fanon,
Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 2008); Frantz Fanon,
The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004); Memmi, The Colonizer and the
38. See Emma LaRocque,
When the Other is Me: Native Resistance Discourse, 18501990 (Winnipeg:
University of Manitoba Press, 2010), 3
4. Glen Sean Coulthards work mostly engages with the
work of Fanon but he also acknowledges the in
fluence of Memmis ideas. See Glen Sean
Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 2014), 191, footnote 34.
39. On settler fear and anxiety, see Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 14; Mackey,
Unsettled Expectations, 356; Mark Rifkin, Settler States of Feeling: National Belonging and
the Erasure of Native American Presence
, in A Companion to American Literary Studies, eds.
Caroline F. Levander and Robert S, Levine (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 342
55; and
Sean Carleton,
Settler Anxiety and State Support for Missionary Schooling in Colonial
British Columbia, 1849
1871, Historical Studies in Education, 29 (Spring 2017): 5776.
40. Fanon,
The Wretched of the Earth, 15.
41. For more on the cultural production of colonialism, see LaRocque,
When the Other is Me;
Edward Said,
Orientalism (New York: Pantheon, 1978); Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism
(London: Chatto & Windus, 1993); Robert Berkhofer Jr., The White Mans Indian: Images of
the American Indian from Columbus to the Present
(New York: Vintage, 1978); and Daniel
The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Vancouver:
Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992).
42. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang,
Decolonization is Not a Metaphor, Decolonization: Indigeneity,
Education & Society
1, no.1 (2012): 1.
43. Memmi,
The Colonizer and the Colonized, 37.
44. Ibid., 52.
45. Ibid., 53.
46. On false balance and residential school denialism, see MacDonald,
The Sleeping Giant
47. Admittedly, some historians have tried to advocate for a
positiveinterpretation of residential
schooling, but they have mostly done so in non-peer reviewed publications. See, for example,
Ken Coates,
Second Thoughts about Residential Schools, The Dorchester Review 4, no. 2
(Autumn/Winter 2014): 25
9. On the questionable validity of these counternarratives,see
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, 1528.
48. MacDonald,
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, 1567.
49. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the
, 623.
50. Senator Lynn Beyak,
The Senators Speech in the SenateMarch 7, 2017Residential Schools, (accessed 1 February 2019).
51. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the
, 501.
52. Senator Lynn Beyak,
The Senators Speech in the SenateMarch 7, 2017Residential Schools, (accessed 1 February 2019).
53. Senator Lynn Beyak,
Statement, April 16, 2017,
(accessed 1 February 2019). I note that the statement was listed as being released on April
6 but the title of the statement on Beyak
s website said April 16.
54. Ibid.
55. 97 were neutral. Office of the Senate Ethics Officer, Inquiry Report Under the Ethics and Conflict
of Interest Code for Senators Concerning Senator Lynn Beyak
, March 19, 2019, 12. http://sen.
56. The letter writers were given anonymity through various forms of abbreviation, by Beyak, her
ff, or by the authors themselves.
57. See Cheryl Gaver,
Residential Schools in Canada: Why the Message is Not Getting Across, in
Power Through Testimony, 198. Some of the support letters could also be read as examples of
white fragility, but, like Gaver, I see residential school denialism as a different, though
related, phenomenon. For more on white fragility, see Robin DiAngelo,
White Fragility: Why
s Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018).
58. Tuck and Yang,
Decolonization is Not A Metaphor, 3.
59. Letter 1, Richard,
Your attempts to offer balancein the historical perspective of residential
, 8 March 2017. The support letters, which I downloaded for analysis before they were
deleted from Beyak
s website in 2019, were not attributed to peoplesfull names.
60. Letter 4, Remi,
Residential schools, March 9, 2017.
61. Letter 22, D,
Residential schools, March 16, 2017.
62. Letter 15, Janice,
Residential schools, March 10, 2017.
63. Letter 17, Theresa,
Residential schools, March 11, 2017.
64. Letter 9, Bob,
Residential schools, March 9, 2017.
65. Letter 21, A,
Residential schools, March 16, 2017.
66. Letter 93, R,
Residential schools, April 3, 2017.
67. Letter 44, Marcia,
Thank you for being courageous, March 20, 2017.
68. For more on employee narratives regarding residential schools in the context of the TRC, see
Truth and Indignation, 124144. MacDonald, however, argues that Niezens anthropological approach, including his uncritical privileging of interviews with former Catholic teachers and school administrators, borders on apology. See MacDonald, The Sleeping Giant
, 1518.
69. For more on this kind of response, see MacDonald,
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, 15861.
70. Letter 8, Charles,
Residential schools, March 9, 2017.
71. Letter 51, Ben,
The abundance of good, March 22, 2017.
72. Letter 53, Ardell,
DO NOT RESIGN, March 24, 2017.
73. Letter 43, Richard,
Residential schools, March 20, 2017.
74. Letter 3, Robert,
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report comments, March 9, 2017.
75. Letter 46, Vic,
Brave and intelligent lady, March 21, 2017.
76. Letter 65,
Residential schools, March 29, 2017.
77. Letter 37,
I support you, March 19, 2017.
78. See Lowman and Barker,
Settler, 424; Arthur Manuel, The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering
the Land, Rebuilding the Economy
(Toronto: James Lorimer and Company Ltd., 2017), 7681.
79. Letter 6, Kevin,
Your remarks about residential schools, March 9, 2017.
80. Letter 11, C,
I support you, March 10, 2017.
81. The TRC report talks about music and sports programs in the schools being a
relieffor some
children. Some former students speak fondly about these experiences; however, they must
be understood in the larger context of the genocidal system. Beyak, like her supporters,
would prefer to focus on the former as a way of mitigating the over-whelming negative
ffects of the later. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the
Truth, Reconciling for the Future
, 110114.
82. Memmi,
The Colonizer and the Colonized, 54 and 716.
83. Letter 9, Bob,
Residential schools, March 9, 2017.
84. Letter 13, Paul,
Respect for you, March 10, 2017.
85. Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 1011.
86. Letter 26, Heinz,
Commendation, March 18, 2017.
87. Letter 62, Allen,
Positive comment for your information on residential schools, March 28,
88. Letter 64, R, Thanks for speaking your mind on Indian Residential Schools, March 28, 2017.
89. Memmi,
The Colonizer and the Colonized, 53.
90. Patrick Wolfe,
Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native, Journal of Genocide
, 8, no. 4 (December 2004): 387409.
91. Starblanket and Hunt,
Storying Violence, 679.
92. Lowman and Barker,
Settler, 99.
93. Letter 19, Linda,
Residential schools, March 14, 2017.
94. Letter 37, Terry,
I support you, March 19, 2017.
95. Letter 91, B,
Native/Indian affairs committee, March 30, 2017.
96. Letter 66, Grace,
Three cheers for you, March 30, 2017. Emphasis added.
97. Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 1334.
98. Letter 47, Don,
Resignation demands, March 21, 2017.
99. Letter 87, Gordon,
Controversy, March 30, 2017.
100. Letter 71, Lorraine,
Residential schools and the plight of Aboriginal People in Canada, March
30, 2017.
101. Letter 86, Bryan,
Support, March 30, 2017. Emphasis added.
102. Letter 24, Barry,
Residential schools, March 18, 2017. Emphasis added.
103. Letter 98, Roy,
Truth and reconciliation, April 5, 2017. Emphasis added.
104. Ibid. Emphasis added.
105. Maracle,
My Conversations with Canadians, 27.
106. Memmi,
The Colonizer and the Colonized, 78.
107. Robert Jago,
Why is Senator Lynn Beyak Publishing Racist Letters on Her Website?The
, January 3, 2018,
108. Rahul Kalvapalle,
Andrew Scheer Removes Sen. Lynn Beyak Over RacistLetters about Indigenous people, Global News, January 5, 2018,
109. John Paul Tasker,
Lynn Beyak, the Senator Who Defended Residential Schools, is
, CBC, January 25, 2021,
110. Mary Jane McCallum quoted in Rachel Aiello,
Facing Push to Expel, Lynn Beyak Retires from
the Senate
,, January 25, 2021,
111. LaRocque,
When the Other is Me; Starblanket and Hunt, Storying Violence.
112. Manuel,
The Reconciliation Manifesto, 56.
113. Kiera L. Ladner,
150 Years and Waiting: Will Canada Become an Honourable Nation? in Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal, eds. Kiara L. Ladner and
Myra J. Tait (Winnipeg: ARP Books 2017), 407.
114. Simpson,
As We Have Always Been, 101.
115. Beyak is by no means an anomaly. For other examples of residential school denialism, see
Sean Carleton,
Lynn Beyak has retired, but residential school denial remains a barrier to
, National Observer, January 28, 2021,
I thank David Parent, Mary Jane Logan McCallum, Scott Murray, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair,
and the anonymous readers for their helpful comments on previous drafts and presentations of
this article.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Notes on contributor
Sean Carleton is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of History and Indigenous Studies at the
University of Manitoba.
Sean Carleton