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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter