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.
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