Manitoba

Chief sorry for letter about Jews

The chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has apologized to Jewish people across the country for a letter he sent to the media last week.

The chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has apologized to Jewish people across the country for a letter he sent to the media last week.

"I realize now that my approach, tone, and some of my comments were deeply hurtful and offensive to some members of the Jewish community," Chief Terrance Nelson said Monday. "Today, I wish to apologize to the Jewish people of Manitoba and Canada for any offence, anger or hurt that I may have caused."

Nelson issued a press release last week saying media coverage of David Ahenakew's hate trial in Saskatchewan will increase aboriginals' hatred of Jews and make the former leader of the Assembly of First Nations a martyr.

In the three-page release, Nelson also made critical comments about news organizations owned by Jews. Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, expressed concern that the release would incite violence against Jewish people.

Nelson said Monday that the release was a late-night rush job and he should have had it reviewed before releasing it. However, he says he will continue to be an outspoken advocate for native rights.

"Is my apology to the Jewish people for my comments total and unconditional? Yes. For my own comments, and for the way I said it, yes. You have an apology today. But I must be honest – that apology does not mean that I will be silent," he said.

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."

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.

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