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Native leader lauds Holocaust

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 18, 2002

TORONTO -- A prominent native leader in Canada apologized Tuesday for saying that Adolf Hitler was justified in killing millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

In comments last week to a newspaper reporter in Saskatchewan, David Ahenakew said that Hitler "fried 6-million" Jews to make sure they didn't take over Europe.

"Jews would have owned the ... world," he continued. "And look what they're doing. They're killing people in Arab countries."

On Tuesday, Ahenakew said he was "sorry and ashamed" about his comments, and he resigned as chair of the senate of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. He also quit positions on boards and at institutions involving "First Nations," as groups of native people are known in Canada.

"I want to publicly state that words cannot describe how sorry I am for the hurt I've caused," Ahenakew said at a news conference in Saskatchewan. "Such a comment has no excuse. ... Obviously I got carried away last Friday. I got caught up in the heat of the moment. I was attempting to spark debate among First Nations people."

Ahenakew has been a frequent critic of the Canadian government, often criticizing it as racist. He made the comments about the Holocaust after a speech on Friday that has been widely characterized as a rant against Jews and Asians.

The Saskatchewan attorney general has called for a police investigation into whether Ahenakew's comments constitute a hate crime. Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Mounties, said that anyone making statements that can be "characterized as public incitement of hatred against any identifiable group," leading to a "breach of peace," could face a prison sentence of two years. Jones said no violence has occurred as a result of Ahenakew's comments.

Jewish leaders have called for Ahenakew to be removed from the Order of Canada, which recognizes people who have made a difference in Canada. Ahenakew was made a member in 1978 for his work in advancing the rights of native peoples.

"These vicious and vile remarks stagger the mind and sicken the heart," said Keith Landy, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

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