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April 2, 2009

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Ahenakew Acquittal Won’t Be Appealed

SASKATOON — Justice officials in Saskatchewan say they won’t appeal the acquittal of former aboriginal leader David Ahenakew on charges of wilfully promoting hatred against Jews.
“After looking at the judgment, we can’t say whether the trial judge committed an error of law or made an unreasonable finding of fact,” director of appeals Dean Sinclair told Canadian Press last week.
Ahenakew, the former head of the Assembly of First Nations, was charged after a controversial speech and subsequent interview with a reporter in 2002 in which he called Jews a “disease…. that’s going to take over.”
He went on to say: “The Jews damn near owned all of Germany prior to the war. That’s how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn’t take over Germany or Europe.”
On Feb. 23, Judge Wilfred Tucker called the comments “disgusting,” but said he didn’t believe the accused intended to promote hatred.
It was the second trial for Ahenakew, 75, who was found guilty in 2005 of promoting hatred and fined $1,000. The conviction was overturned on appeal.
B’nai Brith Canada’s executive vice-president, Frank Dimant, said that this “was a clear case of spewing anti-Jewish hatred, even though the court found that it did not meet the legal standard for a conviction.” The group urged Ottawa to review hate crimes legislation, saying the Ahenakew affair has created “uncertainty and doubt.”
Canadian Jewish Congress said it accepted the decision, adding that, ironically, the case actually brought the Jews and First Nations “closer than we have ever been.”

Museum To Get Cash

TORONTO — The government of Ontario will contribute $5 million to the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, the Toronto Star reported. Premier Dalton McGuinty made the promise to Gail Asper, who chairs fundraising for the museum, months ago, the Star said. Because of the poor economy, the gift will be paid in $500,000 chunks over 10 years. It will be used to tell visitors about the struggle for human rights in Ontario, as well as to bring Ontario students to visit. The $265-million museum, slated to open in 2012, was the brainchild of the late Izzy Asper, founder of Canwest Global Communications. Funding to build it is coming from three levels of government and private donations.

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