Skip to main content

Six years after he said Jews were a "disease" and tried to justify the Holocaust to a Saskatoon reporter, David Ahenakew has been found not guilty of willfully promoting hatred.

Reading a 19-page decision, Provincial Court judge Wilfrid Tucker harshly condemned Mr. Ahenakew's remarks, calling them "revolting, disgusting and untrue," but determined that the former head of the Assembly of First nations did not intend to broadcast his views.

"There is no indication that the accused, at the time of the interview, even considered the possibility that the statements he made to [the reporter]would cause hatred against Jewish people to be promoted," Mr. Tucker said.

The charges stem from a December, 2002 speech to First Nations leaders during which Mr. Ahenakew denounced immigrants and blamed Jews for starting World War II. In a subsequent interview with Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter James Parker, Mr. Ahenakew said that Hitler "fried" six million Jews to "make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe" and that the world would "be owned by the Jews right now" had Hitler not "cleaned up a hell of a lot of things."

Mr. Ahenakew made a tearful public apology after the comments were circulated in media reports around the world.

The federal government revoked his Order of Canada and he lost his position as a senator with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian nations.

In July, 2005, Mr. Ahenakew was convicted of promoting hatred and fined $1,000. The decision was overturned 11 months later after the Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the original judge had not fully considered Mr. Ahenakew's intent.

During a trial last fall, Mr. Ahenakew, now 75, testified that he never intended to promote hatred and doesn't hate Jews.

For much of the 30 minutes it took Mr. Tucker to read his decision today, Mr. Ahenakew kept his arms folded and eyes closed.

Judge Tucker said that because Mr. Ahenakew never intended to talk about his opinions on Jews with the reporter - at one point even saying "I'm not gonna argue with you about the Jews" to Mr. Parker - he showed no desire to publicize those views.

Outside the courtroom today, Mr. Ahenakew remained largely silent as his lawyer and daughter fielded questions, but did say "I'm glad it's over."

Defence lawyer Doug Christie said the Ahenakew family could finally have some peace and chided the Crown for pursuing the case. "It was a few moments in history that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and really nothing was achieved in terms of harmony or understanding."

Randy Katzman, a spokesman for B'nai Brith, criticized the ruling and said his organization would "either ask the Crown to review or maybe ask for the legislation to be changed."

A representative from the Canadian Jewish Congress said she respected the judge's decision and applauded him for denouncing Mr. Ahenakew's comments.

Crown prosecutor Sandeep Bains said he will need to review the ruling further before deciding whether to appeal.