By Lloyd Dolha
The chair of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSIN) senate, said he will not be seeking to assume his role as chair of the senate, even though controversial former senator David Ahenakew turned down his reinstatement to the body in the organization. “After that situation, I just have no interest in chairing the senate, said the former senate chair Roland Crowe.
Crowe resigned from the 21-member body of senior First Nations leaders in early April, after the organization’s assembly of chiefs voted to reinstate Ahenakew as a senator at an emergency meeting at the Dakota Dunes Casino south of Saskatoon on March 28th. Crowe said the Ahenakew affair was just one more distraction that is keeping the FSIN from doing the work Saskatchewan First Nations expect of them.
“I think it’s time right now that we need not the distractions but to deal with the real burning issues we have and we have a lot of them in our communities.”
Ahenakew, the 74 year-old former head of the FSIN and the Assembly of First Nations, was ejected from senate some five years ago after making anti-Semitic comments at a conference in Saskatoon in 2002.
He was later convicted of willfully promoting hate, but the conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered.
After an outcry from First Nations leaders, leading Jewish organizations as well as the federal and Saskatchewan governments, Ahenakew issued a statement saying he was turning down the post.
FSIN leader Chief Lawrence Joseph stood behind his decision to reinstate Ahenakew, saying everybody deserves a second chance and that his “wisdom, knowledge and expertise” are needed.
Joseph said Ahenakew’s 2002 comments calling Jews a “disease” were abhorrent, but had since then apologized.
Shoal Lake Cree Nation Chief Marcel Head, who voted against Ahenakew’s reinstatement, called for the resignation the FSIN leader over his handling of the issue.
The following week, the Prince Albert Tribal Council called for an investigation into the whole affair.
The chiefs of the grand council want to know how a motion to reinstate the disgraced former leader ended up being brought forward at the emergency meeting dealing with the federation’s finances.
The meeting was held for the FSIN chiefs-in-assembly to discuss the federation’s $1.6 million debt, however; a motion to reinstate Ahenakew was brought forward based on a recommendation from the senate the night before.
“It was a mistake that I think everybody wants corrected,” said Grand Chief Ron Michel of the Prince Albert Tribal Council.
Michel said the senate recommendation should have gone to federation’s Indian Government Commission before it was brought up at the assembly. On April 7th, the grand council passed a motion calling on the FSIN executive and the Indian Government Commission “to investigate and determine” if the Akenakew resolution was properly presented to the assembly.
Even though Ahenakew has since turned down the invitation to be a senator again, it’s still important to investigate the assembly’s decision because the chiefs of the Prince Albert Grand Council believe the resolution was not properly vetted in accordance with the federation’s internal process, said a news release issued by the grand council.