David Ahenakew, the former Assembly of First Nations Chief, is making headlines in a trial that has some Native people hanging their heads in shame.
Ahenakew has been testifying in Saskatchewan court after being charged under the Criminal Code with spreading hatred against Jews. His off-the-cuff remarks were made when he was a Federation of Saskatchewan Indians Senator in December 2002. Some of the racist comments include:
“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. How do you get rid of a disease like that, that’s going to take over, that’s going to dominate?”
“That’s why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the God damned world. And look what they’re doing. They’re killing people in Arab countries.”
Then, during his trial on April 7, he tried to turn the focus onto the Canadian people, much to the chagrin of Natives everywhere:
“Thousands and thousands of Canadian people – they should be here answering questions about hatred toward the Indians.”
While there is truth to this statement, its validity is weakened when it’s used to cover a lie. Consider this:
“I’m a holocaust victim,” Ahenakew shouted under cross-examination on the final day of his trial. “We lost over 100 million people over the last 500 years.” Don’t get me wrong, obviously we’ve suffered one injustice after another over the years, but is spewing hatred upon the Jews going to change that? It was a poor attempt at deflecting the attention away from himself and onto others. He chose the wrong time to highlight the pain and suffering of Native people.
Then, on April 11, brainiac Native leader Terry Nelson of Manitoba’s Roseau River First Nation added his two cents worth when he claimed that media coverage of the trial would promote hatred against Jews by Native people in Canada. He so eloquently stated that “Natives are killing whites now; soon they will be killing police officers on a regular basis.”
These comments are irresponsible and shortsighted to say the least. By uttering these death threats, Nelson is basically telling the average person that Natives are crazy and will react with violence when we don’t get our way. He’s also telling the sometimes easily influenced youth to rebel against authority. He should resign and stay as far away from public office as possible. We can only hope his comments fall by the way-side and aren’t acted upon by anyone.
Ahenakew also told Saskatchewan StarPhoenix reporter James Parker that it was the Germans and Canadian soldiers returning from Germany who told him the Jews started the Second World War and that they would eventually own the world.
What is this? High school? As a Native leader and someone who has been appointed to the Order of Canada, Ahenakew does not have that privilege of claiming ignorance. If he believed everything people said then he shouldn’t have been in a position of leadership to begin with – in any capacity.
Ahenakew is no stranger to controversy. A few years ago he supported terminating the rights of Native women who marry non-native men. Women’s groups were not pleased.
In the current case, Ahenakew claims that his medication had been doubled and his blood-sugar levels were high when he made the disparaging comments about Jews. He also said two glasses of wine made matters worse.
Blaming racist, destructive comments on medication and alcohol just doesn’t cut it. It’s time he took full responsibility for his remarks and stopped making excuses.
I just hope that by prosecuting people like Ahenakew, Canadians remember that these standards should be applied across the board and racist comments against any ethnicity should be taken as seriously as Ahenakew’s have been.