Ontario senator Lynn Beyak, of Dryden, has agreed to meet with Sioux Lookout's Municipal Truth and Reconciliation Committee in the coming months.
The meeting was requested by the committee following controversial remarks Beyak made earlier this month regarding the country's residential school system history.
Sioux Lookout mayor Doug Lawrance explained what the committee hopes comes from the meeting.
“Quite simply, I hope reconciliation comes from that meeting. I think that would be a good framework to start with,” Lawrance said. “We're not sure if she's standing by her comments that were said in the senate, but certainly conversation and education is a good way to strengthen reconciliation.”
The committee is comprised of city officials, indigenous officials and community members, and survivors of the residential school system.
Lawrance touched on how the committee reacted to hearing the comments.
“The initial reaction was certainly disappointment in the comments. Our committee is here in a municipality with over 50 per cent of indigenous people serving an area of about 30,000 indigenous people – Sioux Lookout needed to respond to those comments,” he said.
Beyak caused controversy with comments she made in response to a six-year study of the residential school system provided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the senate on Mar. 7.
"Mistakes were made at residential schools, in many instances, horrible mistakes that overshadowed some good things that also happened at those schools," she said. "The fathers and sons and family members of the nuns and priests, to this day, have to bear the reputation as well, and nobody meant to hurt anybody. The little smiles in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are real, the clothes are clean and the meals are good. There were many people who came from residential schools with good training and good language skills, and, of course, there were the atrocities as well.
"I was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report in that it didn't focus on the good. The people I talk to are Christians."
There has been no official date set for when senator Beyak will meet with the Sioux Lookout Municipal Truth and Reconciliation Committee.