“revolting, disgusting and untrue.”

That’s how a Provincial Court judge in Saskatchewan described things David Ahenakew said about Jews during an interview six years ago. I couldn’t agree more.star_ahenakew

There are people who want to see this second trial overturned, to see Ahenakew found guilty of inciting hatred against Jews. I couldn’t agree less. Here’s why.

Ahenakew was charged after he made his now infamous statements about Jews, first as a conference speaker and later in an interview with a reporter from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. A provincial court found him guilty of “wilfully promoting hatred,” slapped Ahenakew with a $1,000 fine. Ahenakew then had his Order of Canada taken away. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, at first behind Ahenakew, condemned his statements and removed Ahenakew from all official positions including FSIN senator. An appeal court overturned his conviction, but by then Ahenakew had been exposed to everyone as a man with disgusting ideas.

But there’s a difference between spouting disgusting ideas and inciting violence against an identifiable group in society. Ahenakew is guilty of the first, not the second. He said disgusting things about Jews, as this second trial judge said. In doing so, he let the world see him in a new light, an ugly light, in that interview six years ago. But Ahenakew wasn’t inciting violence. And that should be the line when it comes to criminal charges. Inciting violence is where the loud-mouthed idiot becomes a danger to others in society, and where the criminal code should become a factor.

Believe me, I can think of some people I would love to put through the same wringer as Ahenakew. I would have to ask myself, though, whether they were simply off their big yaps or advocating physical attacks on someone else.



Filed under Aboriginal peoples, Canada, Canadian politics, Indigenous peoples, racism

7 responses to ““revolting, disgusting and untrue.”

  1. KevinG

    Couldn’t agree more. I admire your rational adherence to principle.

  2. Totally agree also.
    The funny thing is I have heard the same kind of statements made about First Nations peoples,publicly and on-line.Yet nobody says a damn thing,kinda make one wonder why double standard.

  3. Shmohawk

    I should have added the link, but was in race with a dying laptop battery:

    @dirk: I think people are saying so more and more. Dr. Dawg (drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com) does, StageLeft (/www.stageleft.info/) too. Treehugger (treehugger.com/) and JimBobby (jimbobbysez.blogspot.com/) and a lot more,

    I agree about the filth that crawls out to spew similar racist and hateful garbage directed at Indians, Inuit or Métis with apparent impunity. I wish Indigenous people in North America would collectively condemn that kind of filth whenever it oozes out, similar to the way the Canadian Jewish Congress organizes its anti-semitism campaigns.

    Maybe then…

  4. Ahenakew wasn’t inciting violence.

    That’s a very simple, refreshing second thought on the entire affair.

    Ahenakew’s comments were outrageous. No question. But the amount of harm that he did was fairly small. I disagree with the court ruling on whether or not he was inciting hatred, but maybe inciting hatred shouldn’t be enough to warrant criminal charge.

    If Ahenakew had denied the Holocaust, that would be another thing. But he didn’t.

    If Ahenakew had been tried in a Human Rights Commission, he’d certainly have been convicted. But as distasteful as I find this affair, maybe Ahenakew really should be spared conviction.

    The damage to his personal reputation is certainly punishment enough.

  5. Shmohawk

    HRCs don’t convict. They’re tribunals, not courts of law. Ahenakew was charged with “willfully promoting hatred,” not “inciting hatred.” I have no sympathy for Ahenakew or his reputation. He asked for it when he decided to inflict his ugly ideas upon the public.

  6. Um…

    HRC’s do indeed convict people. They just don’t convict them of a criminal offense.

  7. shmohawk

    There is nothing in the Act for the CHRC about charging or convicting anyone of anything. This is an excerpt from the Canadian Human Rights Act ( R.S., 1985, c. H-6 ):

    Powers, duties and functions

    27. (1) In addition to its duties under Part III with respect to complaints regarding discriminatory practices, the Commission is generally responsible for the administration of this Part and Parts I and III and

    (a) shall develop and conduct information programs to foster public understanding of this Act and of the role and activities of the Commission thereunder and to foster public recognition of the principle described in section 2;

    (b) shall undertake or sponsor research programs relating to its duties and functions under this Act and respecting the principle described in section 2;

    (c) shall maintain close liaison with similar bodies or authorities in the provinces in order to foster common policies and practices and to avoid conflicts respecting the handling of complaints in cases of overlapping jurisdiction;

    (d) shall perform duties and functions to be performed by it pursuant to any agreement entered into under subsection 28(2);

    (e) may consider such recommendations, suggestions and requests concerning human rights and freedoms as it receives from any source and, where deemed by the Commission to be appropriate, include in a report referred to in section 61 reference to and comment on any such recommendation, suggestion or request;

    (f) shall carry out or cause to be carried out such studies concerning human rights and freedoms as may be referred to it by the Minister of Justice and include in a report referred to in section 61 a report setting out the results of each such study together with such recommendations in relation thereto as it considers appropriate;

    (g) may review any regulations, rules, orders, by-laws and other instruments made pursuant to an Act of Parliament and, where deemed by the Commission to be appropriate, include in a report referred to in section 61 reference to and comment on any provision thereof that in its opinion is inconsistent with the principle described in section 2; and

    (h) shall, so far as is practical and consistent with the application of Part III, try by persuasion, publicity or any other means that it considers appropriate to discourage and reduce discriminatory practices referred to in sections 5 to 14.1.

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