Anna Morgan – Toronto Star – Courts not the place to fight hate
David Ahenakew is back in the news.
The problem with the debate is that it has focused on the question of free speech. But Ahenakew isn’t just a speaker, he’s a believer. Even if Saskatchewan prosecutors pursue their legal action and eventually get a conviction and even if a fine is imposed, it won’t lead to Ahenakew changing his mind.
Where’s the upside here? In other criminal cases, punishment is supposed to work together with efforts to rehabilitate. While it seems obvious that bad ideas can’t be pounded out of existence, do we just give up? Is it not possible to turn around Ahenakew and his like-minded audience?
Let me make myself clear: I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. My late father, who in 1992 testified in a Nazi war crimes case in Australia, witnessed first-hand the way brutal words can turn into brutal deeds. I would never trivialize hate speech. My point, however, is that in 21st-century Canada, words and thoughts should be countered first and foremost by education.
As I look back on my own schooling, I am reminded of a Talmudic lesson about a woman named Bruria, a scholar noted for her wisdom. When her husband began to pray for the punishment of certain sinners, she urged him to pray that they change their ways instead.