The longstanding animosity between the Cree and Jews boils over!
Aboriginal groups try to distance themselves from anti-Semitic remarks
Last Updated Mon, 16 Dec 2002 22:18:41
SASKATOON - The RCMP has been called in to investigate remarks made by the former head of the Assembly of First Nations and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations praising Hitler for the Holocaust.
David Ahenakew applauded Hitler for, in his words, the six million Jews "fried" in the Holocaust.
There is no question Ahenakew, a war veteran, a prominent native statesmen and a distinguished member of the Order of Canada, made the remarks defending the Holocaust.
"That's how Hitler came in. That he was going to make damn sure that Jews weren't going to take over. That's why he fried six million of those guys."
The remarks were made to a reporter for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix after a profanity-laced speech last Friday attacking Asians and Jews.
Reaction from across the country has been fast a furious.
Jewish leaders and politicians condemned Ahenakew, saying he should be stripped of his Order of Canada.
His own people are calling for him to apologize and bow out of public life.
"He has to be made and held accountable for those statements," said the current head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Perry Bellegarde.
There was also a quick reaction from Matthew Coon Come, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "We regret these insulting comments directed at our Jewish brothers and sisters who have in fact supported First Nations in many of our struggles," he said.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper said Ahenakew's comments were "way beyond expressing a vile political opinion."
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was also upset about the remarks. He called Ahenakew's comments "completely unacceptable."
The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) called for a hate-crimes investigation. CJC president Keith Landy said Ahenakew should be kicked out of the Order of Canada.
Landy said the congress will ask Governor General Adrienne Clarkson for a review of the requirements for members of the Order of Canada.
Benjamin Goldstein, a Saskatoon judge and president of the Shir Hadash Synagogue, said he was deeply saddened by the remarks.
"Our brothers and sisters who are aboriginal, how terrible they must feel to have somebody who's a leader of theirs make such mad, insane comments," said Goldstein.
Bellegarde said he would personally tell the Jewish community that the FSIN doesn't share its former chief's opinions.
Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert is also outraged. "They do not reflect the views of Saskatchewan or First Nations people in our province," he said.
"We're referring this matter this to the RCMP for investigation to see whether or not charges should be laid," said Saskatchewan Attorney General Chris Axworthy.
That criminal investigation will take a while to complete.
On Tuesday, Ahenakew will face his own community. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has called a news conference and aboriginal leaders have made it clear they want him to apologize and face the consequences of his actions.
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