The guy from Northern Ireland hates Eskimos, the Eskimo hates lesbians, the lesbian hates... etc. Charming.
So, what am I to think when I see that David Ahenakew, a native leader and former head of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, defend the Holocaust? He was so outspoken about his beliefs that his career has basically been trashed... he'll no doubt have his "Order of Canada" pin revoked. Perhaps more seriously, the B'Nai Brith Canada is seeking hate charges against Ahenakew.
"Despite the apology by Ahenakew, criminal proceedings are necessary to deter others who may wish to make such grievous statements in the future," said David Matas, senior legal counsel for B'Nai Brith Canada.
However, the idea of seeking hate crime charges against Ahenakew has been strongly criticized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as excessive and ultimately a form of censorship and a violation of Ahenakew's rights.
Yes, I can understand how someone in a position of power should step down from their job if they are shown to hold personal beliefs that are so abhorent that they prevent them from effectively carrying out their duties. This is certainly the case with Trent Lott. However, the idea of prosecuting a person for a hate crime just because they open their mouth and show the world how ignorant they really are is dead wrong.
In Canada, a hate crime is defined as "a criminal act against a person(s) or property that is based solely, or in part, upon the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability." That leads to the obvious question - where's the crime? Is the very act of speaking a crime? Well, in Canada, it could be... but the burden is on the government to prove that there was an attempt to willfully promote hatred, which clearly can not be proven in this case. If I know this and I am a non-lawyer, then clearly Mr. Matas, the lawyer for B'Nai Brith Canada, knows all too well that his attempt to bring charges against Ahenakew is groundless and a waste of time for the legal system.
When Mr. Matas says, "criminal proceedings are necessary to deter others who may wish to make such grievous statements in the future," it seems to me that what he is implying is that he will maliciously try to misuse the legal and judicial system in order to bring further ruin to a man's life, gain some publicity, and ideally discourage others from airing opinions regarding Jewish people that might be considered negative or offensive, regardless of whether those opinions are a hate crime themselves or not.
Frankly, there are lots of uglier things that people could do with that might be called a hate crime. This, however, is not one of them. It is merely the ugly, ignorant opinion of a bigot. While it is understandable that a native leader would support the Palestinians or be critical of the Israelis (and the U.S. government) for their behavior, the fact is that Ahenakew went over the line. The public were quite rightly repelled by Ahenakew's words, and acted in unison. As a result, he has been disgraced and forced into early retirement.
However, what Mr. Matas is doing is just as bad, if not worse, because, unlike Ahenakew, Mr. Matas is acting with willful intent. One can only hope that any judge who has his time wasted by Mr. Matas will throw the case (and the lawyer) unceremoniously out on the sidewalk.
Mr. Matas is doing a disservice to B'Nai Brith and to Jews everywhere by turning a bigot into a victim of censorship at the hand of a Jewish lawyer. While I understand that there is a need for organizations to properly represent the interests of their constituencies, I think at a certain point, limits must be drawn on these organizations by their constituencies, too. What is needed is education and respect for different cultures... not vindictiveness or censorship.
So, yes, like the comedy skit, perhaps the guy from Northern Ireland hates the Eskimos, the Eskimo hates lesbians, and, in this case, apparently the Native American hates Jews. Where does it all end?!
This skit has long since stopped being funny. At some point, a good, earnest attempt at education needs to begin and the self-victimization needs to end, or we really will find ourselves in 'The Real World'... just put us together on an ever-more-crowded planet and watch us explode.