Ahenakew to be Retried for Hate

By: Law is Cool · February 3, 2008 · Filed Under Aboriginal Law, Civil Rights, Criminal Law · 2 Comments 

The Aboriginal leader who made anti-Semitic remarks will be retried for hate speech.

Although convicted in 2006 and charged $1,000, the finding was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The recent finding indicates he may still be found guilty for willfully promoting hatred.

Chief Justice Robert Laing held that the requisite intent to be convicted was not properly assessed on appeal.

The statements in question were made in 2002 to a reporter at a conference where he justified the Holocaust because they were so proliferative in Germany that they were taking over and changing Germany.

how do you get rid of a… disease that’s gonna take over, that’s gonna dominate, that’s gonna everything, and the poor people, they…

Ahenakew was theformer head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Assembly of First Nations and member of the Order of Canada.

At the time of the statements, Manuel Prutschi,national executive vice-president, Canadian Jewish Congress, said,

David Ahenakew’s views are acknowledged as “vile” and “poisonous.” The anti-hate law must be invoked to free the environment of hatred’s most toxic manifestations.

Ahenakew had responded that he himself was a Holocaust victim, and that

Thousands and thousands of Canadians – they should be answering questions about their hatred toward Indians.

The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada had stated on the appeal that they would seek to get the case retried.

A Double Standard?

Virginia Green wrote in a letter to the Toronto Star onDecember 23, 2002,

Your observations do not take into account power relationships in this country.

I find a double standard in how the media, as a reflection of mainstream public opinion, continue to bring up David Ahenakew’s inexcusable and racist comments toward Jews while ignoring and minimizing the many racist behaviours and comments committed by public authorities toward other groups.

Mel Lastman is still the mayor of Toronto despite his racist comments toward African people. No charges have ever been laid against the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, whose actions include carrying out arrests on open waters, subduing boat crews with pepper spray and ramming and attempting to sink boats from aboriginal fishers in the community of Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

The Ontario government still refuses to either hold an inquiry or convene a coroner’s inquest into the killing of unarmed aboriginal activist Dudley George. Toronto police still have no independent body to investigate police abuses against aboriginals and people of colour in this city.

[n.b. the Ipperwash Inquiry was concluded last year, and did address the issue of Dudley George]

Our government refuses to take the U.S. to task for racially profiling and detaining Canadian citizens who are of Arab descent.

It seems to me that the incident with Ahenakew might represent an opportunity to explore aboriginal history and current events, as well as those of Jewish communities.

Ahenakew is the product of the purposeful destruction of aboriginal social, political and legal systems. He comes out of a band council system imposed on our peoples in all its paternalistic and racist wisdom. It also wouldn’t surprise me to learn, as in the case of many of our leaders and community members, that Ahenakew is a personal survivor of the sexual and physical abuse bequeathed to our communities by missionaries, residential schools and the child welfare system.

Neither I nor any other aboriginal person or organization I know of condones Ahenakew’s comments. Rather, I am disheartened that while aboriginal people feel the pressure to reach out to those who were hurt by his comments, we receive little support, no justice and superficial media attention to abuses committed against our own communities.

Occasionally we see aboriginal people utter hateful remarks. How often do we see them in a position of power where they can actually kill unarmed people, ram boats, use pepper spray or deport helpless refugees with impunity? How often do we see people of colour remain in positions of power after making racist comments? How often do we see people of colour in positions of power, period?

While anti-Semitism and racism are never okay, one needs to distinguish between who has the power to act on their views and who does not.

The Real Double Standard

Often overlooked and underreported is that Ahenakew also made statemetnts about other groups at the same time as his anti-Semitic remarks.

He complained about,

…goddamned immigrants – East Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanistan…

Given the context of this statement in conjuction with the anti-Semitic remarks, it would appear that groups representing these communities as well would also have intervenor status as well.

Although not nearly as explicit, these statements should have received equal condemnation by the public.

But it’s not as if they were completely ignored. Crown prosecutor Brent Klause asked Ahenekew at trial in December 2002,

Are you not an immigrant?

…I suggest your people came across the Bering Straight.

An Assault on Dignity and Worth

The Toronto Star said in an editorial about Ahenakew on Apr. 4, 2005,

Hatred is an assault on the dignity and worth of communities. It is tantamount to a rape of the soul. It inflicts emotional injury and threatens physical security.

Society, as a whole, is no less vulnerable since it will not remain intact for long if it permits its communities to be vilified with impunity.

History has shown that decent people speaking out, important as this is, cannot guarantee the preservation of a multicultural democracy because good, unassisted by law, does not necessarily triumph over evil.

Hate speech is an issue that affects us all. But that’s also why we must all work against it, irrespective of who it is directed at.

It’s also why Mr. Martin’s private-member bill should be struck down:

M-446 — January 30, 2008 — Mr. Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) — That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act.

Resources

Dawn Walton and Jeff Sallot. Ahenakew’s racist words shock friends and followers. The Globe and Mail. December 17, 2002

When the anti-hate law is invoked. The Toronto Star Pg. A15. April 4, 2005.

Tonda MacCharles. RCMP to probe pro-Nazi tirade. Toronto Star Pg. A01. December 17, 2002

Comments

2 Responses to “Ahenakew to be Retried for Hate”

  1. karol on November 25th, 2008 1:35 am

    David Ahenakew blamed the Holocaust on Jews but he never killed any Jew as far as we know it.

    Dr. Henry Morgentaler blamed the Holocaust on unwanted and unloved children lashing out at their parents (Morgentaler’s honorary doctorate acceptance speech at Western University),
    and he went on to kill 100000 of them, by his own account, before they were even born and had a chance to harm anyone.

    David Ahenakew was dragged thru the mud for seven years, his Order of Canada was taken away from him and now he faces his second criminal trial.

    Dr. Morgentaler, on the other hand, for his efforts to eliminate “undesirables” was honoured with number of honorary doctorates, and recently with an Order of Canada.

    According to federal legislation Dr. Henry Morgentaler did not qualify as Order of Canada recipient due to his prior unpardoned criminal conviction and past findings of medical malpractice.

    David Ahenakew’s criminal conviction was overturned on appeal so according to federal legislation decision to strip him of his Order of Canada was quite shaky from legal point of view.

    Because of recent uproar over Dr. Morgentaler fiasco and scandal of CHRC invertigators acting as Internet hate mongers public perception has changed and it seems that David Ahenakew’s Order of Canada was taken away from him hastily to say in nicely. There are two solutions to that problem: one is to return his Order of Canada to him with apologies (chances of that happening are slim to none) or try him once again and this time around find him guilty (what was not quite legal than becomes legal after the fact and justifies prior decision to take away his Order of Canada).

    So, it seems that David Ahenakew is a collateral victim of Dr. Morgentaler fiasco.

  2. Lawrence Gridin on November 25th, 2008 1:22 pm

    Karol, I don’t recall Henry Morgentaler killing anyone, let alone 100,000 people.

    Perhaps you should have a look at Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code.

    Morgentaler was himself a Holocaust survivor.

    As for Ahenakew having an Order of Canada, there are many qualifications required. You don’t just automatically get one for not having a criminal record. Similarly, you can be stripped of one, not just for getting a criminal record, but for conduct that seriously violates the spirit that the award stands for.

    The award is given to those who “desire a better country,” according to the Order’s Latin motto.

    Whether Ahenakew has a criminal record for his speech or not, he does not deny making anti-Semitic statements.

    He referred to Jews as a “disease” that was trying to take over Germany and that continues to control the media.

    The statements may not have fit the definition of the “willful” promotion of hatred (I frankly agree with the Court of Appeal). At the very least, though, you’d have to agree that the statements weren’t very nice nor very accurate. He was expressing a legitimate, but ignorant, opinion. Expressing that opinion was offensive and divisive, even if it was not criminally hateful.

    I don’t think that such statements are in the spirit of unity that the Order of Canada is all about.

    There is justification for taking away Mr. Akenahew’s Order of Canada, whether or not his criminal conviction is restored.

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