Manitoba chief stirs controversy, accuses media of anti-native bias

Manitoba Chief Terrance Nelson predicts hatred of Jews will rise if David Ahenakew is convicted on hate charges.

A First Nations chief in Manitoba predicts media coverage of David Ahenakew's hate trial will make the former leader of the Assembly of First Nations a martyr.

Ahenakew is on trial for promoting hatred against an identifiable group over comments he made at a conference in December 2002, when he praised Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust and referred to Jews as "a disease."

Roseau River reserve Chief Terrance Nelson released a statement to the media saying he doesn't agree with Ahenakew's views but condemns what he sees as Jewish control of Canadian media. He says the media write articles that belittle native people.

"Articles appear regularly in newspapers filled with hatred of natives," states the release. "Will there be a dramatic rise in hatred of Jews amongst native people? As a chief, I say 'Yes there will be.''"

In the letter, Nelson singled out CanWest Global Communications; its owners, Winnipeg's Asper family; and their newspaper, the National Post as "the voice of Jews." He accused CanWest of adding to Canadians' animosity towards native people.

"Media not only ignores the killing of natives, it helps to justify the killings."

Nelson says he will not condemn Ahenakew but calls him a "frustrated [and] angry" old man looking for a scapegoat.

David Matas, a spokesperson with the B'nai Brith League for Human Rights, has demanded the Roseau River band fire Nelson.

Last week, Ahenakew's lawyer Doug Christie said the reporter who wrote the newspaper article quoting Ahenakew should be charged with a hate crime.

Christie said reporter James Parker, who used to work for the CanWest-owned Saskatoon StarPhoenix, knowingly disseminated hate by writing the article in the first place.

If found guilty, Ahenakew could face up to six months in jail. Saskatchewan Provincial Court Judge Marty Irwin is expected to rule on the case on June 10.