Saturday, February 2, 2008

Canadian to be tried second time on hate charge

The case of David Ahenakew is back in the news.

After having his conviction of wilfully promoting hate overturned by two appeal courts, the Saskatchewan justice ministry has decided to retry him.

The former Assembly of First Nation's chief became relatively famous in 2002 after he delivered a speech which appeared to blame Jews for World War II. He told a reporter later that Jews were a "disease."

Ahenakew has apologized for the remark and the original conviction came with a fine of just $1,000. The government seems intent on pursuing this as a legal benchmark for future hate speech trials.

"In our mind, it was an appropriate case to proceed back to trial on,'' Daryl Rayner, head of the ministry's public prosecutions branch, said Friday. "The case really hasn't been decided.''

Rayner said Ahenakew was originally prosecuted because the Crown believed that there was a reasonable likelihood of success and that it was in the public interest to do so. He said the case still meets that standard.

"I don't think there's any dispute in terms of what took place,'' said Rayner. "It's just whether or not this is an offence or not, and so in our mind this was still appropriate to take before the courts.''

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