BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Canada chief sorry for anti-Semitic outburst
A former national aboriginal leader in Canada and holder of its highest civilian honour has apologised for anti-Semitic remarks and says he now plans to leave public life.

In an emotional statement, David Ahenakew said he was "ashamed and truly sorry" for his remarks to a Canadian newspaper.

Adolf Hitler
Ahenakew said Hitler had saved the world from being taken over by Jews
They included the comment that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been trying to clean up the world when he "fried six million Jews".

"I have clearly embarrassed our people," he said on Tuesday.

"I admit my own stubbornness, my pigheadedness and my own personal embarrassment prevented me from coming forward immediately to do the right thing in light of what I have caused by such irresponsible and painful comments."

A former chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the nation-wide Assembly of First Nations, he says he will now resign from all First Nations institutions.

I was caught up in the heat of the moment.

David Ahenakew

Mr Ahenakew said that he had been trying to draw attention to what he described as the oppression of the aboriginal Canadian peoples - called the First Nations - by the Canadian Government, but had got carried away.

"My comments came out in anger , frustration and imbalance perpetrated by my health," he said.

Outrage

"I was caught up in the heat of the moment. I was attempting to spark a debate about what has been happening to our First Nations people."

Mr Ahenakew's comments had provoked outrage in Canada - which prides itself on being a tolerant nation.

The provincial government in Saskatchewan has asked the police to launch a formal investigation, and he could be prosecuted for hate crimes.

And if he is found to have broken Canada's laws against inciting hatred, Mr Ahenakew could face a fine or time in prison.

Mr Ahenakew made the comments to a reporter from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix at the weekend.

On the reporter's audio tape, he is heard explaining that Hitler saved the world from being taken over by Jews.

BBC correspondent Ian Gunn says the controversy had left Canada's aboriginal leadership scrambling to distance itself from the views.

The current head of Canada's main aboriginal body, the Assembly of First Nations, said he regretted Mr Ahenakew's remarks and noting that Jewish organisations had often lent political support to aboriginal groups in Canada.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations regional - a group in which Mr Ahenakew is still a leading figure - said it will ask him to resign.

There have also been calls for him to be stripped of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour, which he was awarded for decades of work towards aboriginal rights.

See also:

17 Dec 02 | Americas
07 Mar 02 | Americas
30 Oct 01 | Americas
05 Aug 98 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes