Opinions: Reaction to verdict in hate crimes case
Reaction to the not guilty verdict for David Ahenakew, a Native leader who made disparaging comments about Jewish people.

Nigel Hannaford of The Calgary Herald: "Former aboriginal leader David Ahenakew had been facing charges, for the second time on the same offence, of wilfully promoting hatred. ... However, in Judge Tucker's opinion, the prosecution failed to establish intent -- that is, that Ahenakew had set out to persuade other people to hate Jews. In fact, wrote Tucker in his 19-page decision, Ahenakew did not expect to be questioned by the reporter on his opinions about Jews, and after a brief, confrontational exchange, stated, "I'm not going to argue with you about Jews" and began to walk away from the interview. The accused, he observed, had ended the interview, and this was not the action to be expected of someone seeking to persuade somebody else of his opinions."

The Winnipeg Free Press: "Hate speech is, of course, hateful, it can be dangerous. It is less dangerous spoken openly than whispered secretly, however, as the laws now require. No society that places value on freedom, particularly on the fundamental freedom of speech, should turn it into a crime under the criminal justice system or the object of concern of the kangaroo courts of the nation's human rights commissions. Openness, casting light on the lie, is the best response to hate speech. The lies told by the Ahenakews of this world wither under such scathing denunciations as that delivered by Judge Tucker in Saskatoon on Monday. Instead of suppressing hateful speech that we object to, we should use free speech to refute it in every public forum."

The Halifax Herald: "Clearly, Mr. Ahenakew, now 75, is his own worst enemy. But there’s no evidence he’s a public enemy – a professional hate-monger, if you will – who is intent on inflicting or inciting real harm against Jews. He should never have been prosecuted under Canada’s hate-crime laws. And yet he was – twice.

The Regina Leader-Post: "It's time to put this sad man and his vile comments about Jews being "a disease" and blaming them for starting the Second World War, firmly behind us. Ahenakew can certainly take no comfort in the verdict. Provincial court Judge Wilfrid Tucker told him his remarks about Jewish people "were revolting, disgusting and untrue." However, Tucker ruled Ahenakew's spontaneous remarks to a reporter during an interview in 2002 lacked the necessary intent to make him guilty of inciting hatred."

Get the Story:
Nigel Hannaford: Ahenakew outrageous, disgraceful, but not illegal (The Calgary Herald 2/24)
Editorial: Use free speech (The Winnipeg Free Press 2/24)
Editorial: Court makes right call in Ahenakew case (The Halifax Herald 2/24)
Editorial: David Ahenakew: enough, already (The Regina Leader-Post 2/24)

Related Stories:
Native leader cleared in second hate crimes trial (2/24)
Native leader faces another hate crimes trial (11/24)