Ahenakew’s views are wrong, but so is silencing him

David Ahenakew, a former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has been convicted of willfully promoting hatred in violation of the federal Criminal Code for having made blatantly anti-Semitic statements to a reporter. Under the law he could have been sentenced to prison for up to two years. Instead, the judge imposed a fine of $1,000. But does such a person deserve to be fined or tossed in prison? asked Stephen Newman, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail July 13.

Oliver Wendell Holmes of the US Supreme Court wrote that every idea is an incitement. So long as we have minds and voices of our own, we should not succumb to an irrational fear of evil ideas. The cure for the disease of hate represented by the likes of James Keegstra and David Ahenakew is for persons of good will to speak out against hatred. Interestingly, this is precisely what happened in the aftermath of Ahenakew’s hateful remarks. Condemnation was swift and near universal.

All crime is immoral, wrote Newman, but not all immorality is or should be a crime. Absent a showing that hateful utterances will almost certainly cause grave harm to the nation or at least some portion of its citizens, the disarming of evil ideas ought be left to the public – that is to say, to all of us – through vigorous and responsible exercise of the precious freedom of expression, concluded Newman.

Not unusual to deny risks, says prof

Many people refuse to accept that a terrorist attack could happen in Canada, reported the Toronto Star in a July 13 story about a board game that teaches young people about being prepared for emergencies. It’s not unusual for people to deny risks, said David Etkin, coordinator of York University’s new certificate program in emergency management. “Much of people’s attitudes and strategies towards risk are avoidance and denial, especially when it’s a risk they feel they have no control over.”

A StatsCan view of profs’ salaries

Statistics Canada numbers for 2004-2005 show average full-time professor salaries for 12 comparable schools range from $119,097 at York University to $95,466 at the University of Moncton, reported the Prince George Citizen July 13. The story compared professors’ salary levels at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) with those of professors at other Canadian universities. UNBC’s average salary was $98,714. Average salaries of associate professors range from $102,136 at York to $76,010 at UNBC.

On air

  • Political scientist Daniel Drache, of York’s School of Social Sciences, discussed reaction to comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan that Canadians must prepare for terror attacks, on “OMNI News: South Asian Edition” July 12.