Former national aboriginal leader David Ahenakew says he doesn’t hate Jews, he just hates “what they do,” and he still blames them for starting World War II.
He made the remarks in testimony last week in Saskatoon, where he is standing trial a second time for hate crime based on anti-Semitic slurs he uttered to a reporter five years ago.
The trial, which began Nov. 24, has him facing charges again for comments he made to a reporter from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix in December 2002, when he called Jews “a disease” and said they were the cause of World War II.
He added that Hitler “fried six million of those guys” because “Jews would have owned the God damned world” had the Nazi leader not taken action.
In 2005, Ahenakew was convicted of the rare crime of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group and fined $1,000. He was also stripped of his Order of Canada. He later apologized.
The conviction was overturned on appeal in a ruling that was appealed by the Crown.
Earlier this year, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, ruling that while Ahenakew’s remarks about Jews were “shocking, brutal and hurtful,” they were not illegal.
The Crown decided to pursue a retrial.
Ahenakew’s lawyer, Doug Christie, has represented Holocaust deniers James Keegstra and Ernst Zundel.
Wendy Lampert, director of community relations with Canadian Jewish Congress, attended the retrial on Nov. 26, and told The CJN that Congress hopes the case will be resolved quickly.
“This has been difficult for everyone involved,” she said. “While we recognize the importance of the case, we don’t want it to overshadow the deep and meaningful relationship [the Jewish community] has established with the First Nations people of Canada. Our relationship goes way beyond this case. He’s just one man from that community. Now it’s up to the courts to determine whether or not he broke the law.”
Lampert added that whatever the outcome, Congress hopes Ahenakew takes some time to “reflect on his actions” and the impact that they may have had on others.
With files from JTA