Ahenakew Found Not Guilty Of Promoting Hatred

Monday, February 23, 2009 at 15:28



A former prominent First Nations leader has been found not guilty of wilfully promoting hatred.


David Ahenakew was given the verdict this morning in a Saskatoon courtroom.


It was his second trial on the charge.


The controversy dates back to December 2002 when he called Jews a “disease” to a Star Phoenix reporter.


Today, a provincial court judge called Ahenakew’s comments “disgusting” and “inhumane”, but says there was no intent to promote those views.


Ahenakew says he is unsure if he will become involved again in First Nations politics, such as rejoining the FSIN Senate — but believes he is too old to change his views.


In a release, FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph says the federation is waiting for direction from Indian Affairs about whether the FSIN will remain restricted from hiring Ahenakew.


Ahenakew’s lawyer, Doug Christie, says opinions should not be tried in court.


He says it’s better to tolerate a diversity of opinions, even if some are bad.


Crown Prosecutor Sandeep Bains says the Crown has not decided if it will appeal the decision.


Bains says some positives came out of this trial, noting the courts have taken judicial notice of the Jewish faith.


He also points out the judge ruled that there was nothing wrong with the reporter questioning Ahenakew on his views.


There was mixed reaction from the Jewish community following today’s ruling.


Randy Katzman is with the Saskatoon B’nai Brith Lodge and was not happy with the verdict.


He says he was “stunned and upset”, and admits he came to court expecting a conviction, but has come away “shaking my head” and wondering about the society he lives in.


Katzman says his group will read the ruling and make a decision what to do next.


He says that may include asking the Crown to appeal or ask governments to change the legislation.


A representative from the Canadian Jewish Congress, Wendy Lampert, says the congress respects the process and the decision.


She says some good has come out of the situation, because the Jewish community has since built a strong relationship with the First Nations community.


Lampert says it is time for everyone to move forward.


The Crown has 30 days to decide if it will appeal the decision.