Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tell the rabble to be quiet

This strikes me as being a better solution to deal with high-profile racists like David Ahenakew than hate-speech prosecution, if indeed one only applicable in limited circumstances: The process to remove disgraced aboriginal leader David Ahenakew as a member of the Order of Canada has been put in motion, days before a verdict is expected in his high-profile hate crime trial, sources say. Mr. Ahenakew, 71, is fighting a criminal charge that he was willfully promoting hate against an identifiable group when he told a Saskatoon reporter on Dec. 13, 2002, that the Jews were a "disease" and Adolf Hitler was trying to "clean up the world" when he "fried six million of those guys" during the Second World War. The verdict is expected tomorrow. Since Mr. Ahenakew, who is a former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, made his comments, there have been calls that his Order of Canada membership be revoked. Those calls become louder after he testified during his four-day trial last April that he stood by his remarks, despite a teary apology shortly after they were published. Rideau Hall officials have publicly maintained -- even as late as this week -- that Mr. Ahenakew's case wouldn't be dealt with until his trial concluded. However, on June 29, the advisory committee that administers the Order of Canada, met privately. Later that day, according to sources, a letter was drafted to Mr. Ahenakew that began the process of expelling an Order of Canada recipient. Mr. Ahenakew is being asked to give up the honour voluntarily or submit reasons he should be able to keep it. He couldn't be reached for comment last night. Hate speech laws only mean that those disgusting bigots like Ahenakew will keep their mouths shut, and revelations of their true feelings will be accidental. Better that we should know what he really thinks - and, of course, that he absolutely shouldn't be able to keep a national honour when those thoughts are made clear. Public shaming by expulsion from the Order of Canada, yes; criminalization of speech, no.

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