Ahenakew unapologetic after conviction
By KATHERINE HARDING
Friday, July 8, 2005 Updated at 10:04 PM EDT
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Saskatoon — Disgraced former aboriginal leader David Ahenakew was unapologetic and combative after he was convicted yesterday of promoting hatred against Jews, blaming the media, a judicial system he called racist and the Jewish community for his predicament.
“I hope my trial has revealed some of the frustration and pain of my people. . . . If an Indian slips a little bit, you are crucified,” the 71-year-old former leader of the Assembly of First Nations told reporters, adding that he intends to appeal the ruling.
Provincial Court Judge Marty Irwin ruled that Mr. Ahenakew was willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group when he told a reporter in Saskatoon on Dec. 13, 2002, that the Jews were a “disease” and Hitler was trying to “clean up the world” when he “fried six million of those guys” during the Second World War.
“To suggest that any human being or group of human beings is a disease is to invite extremists to take action against them,” the judge said in his 20-page decision.
Legal experts have called this case an important and provocative test of the country's hate-crime laws, which have traditionally tried to balance free-speech rights against protection of equality and minority rights. Mr. Ahenakew is believed to be the first member of a visible minority group convicted under the laws.
Besides railing about his conviction, for which he was fined $1,000, Mr. Ahenakew noted that authorities unfairly began the process of removing him as a member of the Order of Canada before a verdict was reached.
“This, of course, was the direct result of the pressure put on the [Governor-General's] advisory committee by some of the Jewish community, including a letter-writing campaign and the lobbying by the Canadian Jewish Congress,” he said. On his lapel was the Order of Canada pin he received in 1978.