Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ahenakew Walks Free

A difference in venue can make all the difference in the world

In what will certainly wind up being an extremely controversial decision, David Ahenakew has been acquitted of inciting hatred against Jews.

In the trial, stemming from a 2002 speech and media interview given by Ahenakew, Justice Wilfred Tucker found that Ahenakew hadn't intended to incite hatred in his comments.

Reading the news coverage of the decision seems to indicate a will on Tucker's part to find Ahenakew not guilty.

In his ruling Tucker echoed Doug Christie's extremely curious reasoning, agreeing that Ahenakew couldn't have intended to promote hatred of Jews if he hadn't planned to speak about that topic.

"There was no consent to an interview about Jews or the question of whether they started the Second World War. That is not the subject that anyone would have foreseen," Christie reasoned. "He consented to an interview about the consent form that Natives were required to sign in order to get medical treatment. And that was the thing that got him and a lot of other Native people very upset and he expected to talk about that, and that's what the judge found."

Reportedly, Ahenakew tried to end the interview before he made the comments, but Star Phoenix reporter Betty Ann Adam insisting on asking him about his previous speech, in which he accused Jews of starting the second world war.

That's when Ahenakew uttered the infamous words.

"How do you get rid of a disease like that, that's going to take over, that's going to dominate?" Ahenakew asked. "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," Ahenakew insisted. "Jews would have owned the God-damned world."

Christie's argument -- clearly accepted by Tucker -- regarding whether or not Ahenakew's comments were premeditated is complete and utter nonsense.

For one thing, Canadian criminal law doesn't require premeditation in order to prove intent. Second degree murder, for example, requires an intent to kill but not necessarily premeditation.

In other words, premeditation doesn't define intent.

It's hard to imagine that anyone who would describe another group of people as a "disease" doesn't intend for other people to view them with similar revulsion. The words really do speak for themselves.

But Ahenakew's acquittal also speaks for itself. It also speaks for the extremely tenuous nature of Canada's hate crime laws, and speaks to very different results attained in very different venues.

In a Human Rights Commission Ahenakew would have had no right to legal counsel and his complainants would have been subject to extremely lax rules of evidence. In a Human Rights Commission, Ahenakew would have very likely been convicted.

Of course, Tucker's decision shouldn't be confused for condonation of Ahanakew's remarks.

"The opinions distorted historical facts and general views expressed by the accused can only be viewed with revulsion and disgust by ordinary Canadians," Tucker announced. "That anyone would characterize the murder of millions of innocent human beings as 'getting rid of a disease,' or 'trying to clean up the world' is incomprehensible to decent people."

In contrast to rulings by Canada's various Human Rights Commissions, Ahenakew has walked away from this one without even having to apologize.

"I'm still the same guy that was born, that served the world, that served the army, that served the people. I'm still that same guy," Ahenakew said. "And I'm too damn old now to change anyways."

That's a far cry from the mandated apology and ban on commenting on Jews that could have been ordered by a Human Rights Commission.

Whether or not Ahenakew's acquittal is a setback for Canada's hate speech legislation is something that will remain to be seen, as those facing similar charges in future will almost certainly look to it as a precedent under which they, too, can be acquitted.

In the meantime what will almost certainly fall into greater question is whether or not these laws should be kept at all.

Other bloggers writing on this topic:

Zach Bell - "Jewish Thoughts On David Ahenakew"

Rob Harvie - "Saskatoon Provincial Court Finds Ahenakew 'Not Guilty' of Hate Crime And Probably Unintentionally Does the Right Thing"

Shmohawk - "revolting, disgusting and untrue"

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