If there's any big issue that faces Aboriginal Canadians today, it's probably still racism.
And so, this being the case, it's unsurprising today that the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations today struck another blow against racism by reinstating David Akenahew to its senate.
Wait -- was that a blow against racism or a flow in favor of it? Oh, bother.
Akenahew, it turns out, is a known racist and anti-semite. In a December 2003 interview, Akenahew insisted that Hitler was "clean[ing] up the world" during the Holocaust when he "fried" millions of Jews, whom Akenahew referred to as a "disease".
"But ah, the Germans used to tell me, and I got to know them well because I played soccer against them and with them and so forth. But they used to tell me that you guys are blessed. What we know about the Indians in Canada. They are blessed. But that blessing is being destroyed by the, by your immigrants that are going over there. Especially the Jews, they say, you know. The Second World War was created by the Jews and the Third World War, whatever it is, right now that war ... that wages on Israel in the Arab countries. I was there too. But there’s gonna be a war because the Israelis and the “Bushies”, you know, the bully, the bully, the ah the bigot and so forth in the United States that tells you that if you’re not with me you are against me."In 2005 Akenahew was convicted of promoting hatred and was fined a whole $1000. In 2006 that conviction was overturned.
"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 goddamned world. And look what they're doing. They're killing people in Arab countries."
"How do you get rid of a disease like that, that's going to take over, that's going to dominate?"
FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph insisted that every little thing's gonna be alright, as Akenahew apologized for the statements and allegedly never repeated them.
Except that he did.
During his 2005 trial, Akenahew continued to insist that Jews started the Second World War.
"So you still believe today, in 2005, that the Jewish people started the Second World War?" asked Crown Prosecutor Brent Klause.
"Yes," Akenahew agreed.
To make matters even more insulting, Doug Christie, Holocaust denier defender extraordinaire conjured the audacity to suggest that reporter James Parker should have been charged with a hate crime instead.
"Who distributed the allegedly hateful words?" Christie insisted. "If it had been Dr Ahenakew, no one else would have heard them other than him and Mr Parker. Mr Parker had a story that was the best he could hope for in his life."
In other words, don't blame his client for making the comments in the first place. Blame the tattle-tale. It's the classic bully's defence.
Christie argued that Ahenakew made the comments in the midst of a "private conversation", despite the fact that many of the reported comments were made during a press conference.
The Star Phoenix, meanwhile, has paid its own price for reporting the comments in the first place, as a reporter sent to cover the FSIN's press conference today was denied entrance.
"Having been forewarned about the possibility of being black-listed by the FSIN, I wasn't surprised at their decision to ban StarPhoenix reporter Betty Ann Adam from attending today's press conference," announced StarPhoenix editor Steve Gibb. "However, I was extremely disappointed that the FSIN would carry out such a petulant threat to shoot the messenger rather than simply having the fortitude to come clean and explain their highly questionable decision to reinstate David Ahenakew."
"First Nations people deserve better than to have their leaders respond like schoolyard bullies when asked to explain controversial actions taken behind closed doors without so much as any advance notice of their planned action," Gibb added.
One now has to wonder if all the condemnation of Akenahew's comments was merely feigned. The FSIN quickly accepted Akenahew's resignation. Now that Akenahew has had his conviction overturned, it seems they're all to eager to embrace him once again.
Today, the FSIN voted 43-3 in favour of reinstating Akenahew. To date only Chief Rowland Crowe, chairman of the FSIN Senate, has seen fit to resign.
"I think it's time right now that we need not the distractions but to deal with the real burning issues we have and we have a lot of them in our communities," he announced.
The FSIN has responded to all the criticism by insisting it has the right to run its organization as it sees fit. Apparently, it sees fit to count a known anti-semite amongst its leadership, and invite all the distraction that will entail.
In the process, they're blocking out the media, and refusing to answer the key questions that must be asked.
The Akenahew reinstatement is a farce, and leads one to wonder exactly how much of what has already transpired was, likewise, a farce.