Thursday, February 26, 2009

Canadian Jewish News: "Aboriginal leader acquitted of Jew hatred"

Only in Canada, I guess. I don't agree with putting people on trial for bigoted remarks, but exactly what could he have done to earn a conviction?
A judge has acquitted a former aboriginal leader of willfully promoting hatred against Jews.

It was the second trial for David Ahenakew, who was found guilty in 2005 of promoting hatred against Jews and fined $1,000. But the conviction was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered.

Ahenakew, the former head of Canada's Assembly of First Nations, was charged after a controversial speech and subsequent interview with a reporter in 2002. In the interview he called Jews a "disease ... that's going to take over."

He went on to say that "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.

"That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the God-damned world."

On Monday, Judge Wilfred Tucker of Saskatoon said the comments were "disgusting" but acquitted Ahenakew, saying he didn't believe the accused intended to promote hatred.
Ahenakew, 75, testified at his second trial that he doesn't hate Jews, but "I hate what they do to people." He said he still believes Jews caused World War II.

Commenting on the trial's outcome, Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), co-president Sylvain Abitbol said, "While the court has determined that Mr. Ahenakew's statements were revolting, disgusting and untrue, he did not demonstrate the required intent to meet the rightfully high threshold required for a guilty verdict in hate crimes cases under s. 319 of the Criminal Code, and we respect the court's decision.

"While Mr. Ahenakew has not been convicted, there is no doubt that his words and actions were anti-Semitic and we hope Mr. Ahenakew has come to understand the pain he has caused. We urge Mr. Ahenakew to make amends so he can be remembered for healing rather than for hurting," said Abitbol. [...]

CJC CEO Bernie M. Farber commented on the importance of s. 319. "This section of the Criminal Code is an important element of the fence of protection around vulnerable minorities in Canada. Today's decision should not be extrapolated to conclude that s. 319 of the Criminal Code cannot work," said Farber.

"We commend the Crown and the court for the seriousness and diligence with which they proceeded on this case, and appreciate their efforts to bring about a resolution. We continue to urge law enforcement officials and provincial attorneys-general to enforce the law going forward."
Glad he's happy.

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