The Aspers, a close family, working together to fulfill their dad's dream project, didn't see it coming. Fresh from a successful reveal of the striking design for the Museum that is to be their father's legacy, they thought they could relax.
But, as in all scary stories, that's exactly when something loathsome falls out of a dark closet. Cue Terry Nelson, or, as he is known in court circles, Roseau River Chief Terrance Nelson.
Terry Nelson has his own issues with the Human Rights Museum. And the Asper's have theirs with Terry Nelson, starting with the matter of a couple of letters containing extreme anti-Semitic viewpoints.
Terry Nelson called a news conference this week, ostensibly to apologize for the latest of those letters. We're sure the Aspers would have preferred that the apology not come on the heels of the good news about the museum, but better sooner than never. Right?
We watched the farcical performance where Nelson pretended to apologize for the sentiments he expressed in his letter to the Winnipeg Free Press a week ago. His lack of real regret was obvious to everyone, just as the reason for the news conference.
When some of the contents of the letter were made public last week, the reaction was muted, to say the least. It was only when National Chief Phil Fontaine chastized Nelson that he offered his apology. He discreetly failed to mention Fontaine, as well as the fact that Fontaine sits on the Asper family's National Advisory Council for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. But everyone knew who twisted his arm to say sorry.
Still, The Black Rod felt something was missing, something other than genuine remorse.
We got our answer thanks to Dustmybroom.com which posted the entire three-page letter, plus a previous letter sent two years ago to Izzy Asper at Canwest Global. Reading the whole file helped us understand what the true story was.
The Terry Nelson sideshow is more than simply a case of misguided anti-semitism as portrayed by the news media. It's more serious and more frightening, if you can imagine.
The story starts with CJOB's Charles Adler. Terry Nelson has been nurturing a hatred for Adler for two years, a hatred that manifested itself in the letters to Izzy Asper and to the Free Press.
If Nelson was simply critical of Adler's radio show, or his newspaper column, or his barely-watched television segment, then we could offer no defence. But Nelson makes it personal and crosses a line.
Adler has strong opinions about native government (or lack thereof) and his views stand out starkly in a field of CBC cheerleading and the benign neglect by the rest of the news media. Adler challenges the politically correct reporting of native issues and that has driven Terry Nelson right over the bend.
One specific column in the Winnipeg Sun tipped Terry Nelson into the realm of the bigot.
In that column Adler wrote about two police officers convicted of driving a native youth to the outskirts of Saskatoon and leaving him to find his own way back. He almost froze to death. Adler pointed out that when the two cops asked to be sentenced by the native community in a sentencing circle, the native community went ballistic. Gone were the usual words of conciliation; they didn't want the police officers getting off easy, they demanded a more punitive punishment, like prison. Adler called this hypocrisy.
Terry Nelson was incensed. Saskatchewan native leader David Ahenakew was being condemned for endorsing the Nazi slaughter of Jews in Europe. Nelson saw a parallel. You see Charles Adler is Jewish and, to Nelson, he's "the voice of the Jews."
Since Asper is also Jewish and the Jews apparently control the media, Nelson approached him with his complaint. He wrote:
"Your holocaust museum is to include history of how racism affected indigenous people. A museum on human rights financed by the same people paying Charles Adler to promote hatred simply doesn't make sense...
Where will Jews be in condemning a member of their race? ...
Worry less about an old man like David Ahenakew and worry more about what Charles Adler the Jew is teaching native youth who hear him on CJOB and who read what he writes about Indians in the Winnipeg Sun. Ahenakew never had a national television program, a province wide radio show or a byline, Adler does and as such, he represents you and all Jews."
Nothing happened. Adler wasn't fired. In fact, he was thriving and, in that, Nelson saw a conspiracy. A conspiracy of Jews. He dove deeper into the pool of anti-Semitism and found what he "knew" was there. He wrote the Free Press:
"CanWest Global Communications a Jewish owned multi-national owns two hundred media outlets throughout Canada and the world. Does anyone ever examine the hatred that this group teaches about First Nations people in Canada?...
Jews do in fact own a lot of media and it is how they manage what Canadians view that angers many people. Real hatred of other people is clearly evident by their own words and actions, long before Ahenakew statements became public.
The deliberate and effective use of media to promote hatred of native people is real. It is not only Ahenakew that is angry...
The Jewish silence is deafening. It is not just one article, there are thousands of articles and stories carried by Jewish controlled media that are evidence of hatred against recognized races of people..."
This time Nelson demanded the Aspers condemn Adler, then fire him, or was it vice versa? If Adler wasn't fired and Ahenekiw was convicted, well, who could blame natives for retaliating...
It "will surely cause natives to hate Jews even more then (sic) some of them do now and what Jews fear the most, active promotion of hatred against Jews in Canada will only rise dramatically amongst natives as they make a martyr out of an old man...Natives are killing whites now, soon they will be killing police officers on a regular basis."
Anyone tempted to dismiss this as rhetoric should think twice.
Based on the content of his two letters to the media, its clear that Terry Nelson has spent enormous time casting himself as a victim, but its equally clear that he has a perverted sense of what makes one a victim.
In his letter to Izzy Asper, Nelson had the audacity to extol the victimhood of the killer of Jeff Giles.
"Do you want Charles Adler to teach our youth that Jews hate us? One out of three native youth will become an inmate. In Canadian jails, our youth are being treated worse than animals, so they come out and kill people like Jeff Giles. "
For the record, Jeff Giles was murdered by Jason Starr, a career criminal and street gang member who had been released from prison only six days earlier. He and some friends stole a car and robbed the Arlington Street Foodfare where Giles worked. When Giles chased the robbers he was shot down in cold blood.
It's comforting to dismiss Terry Nelson as a wingnut. But the memory of the buffoons taunting police in the days after the shooting of Matthew Dumas, another career criminal in the making, shows he's not alone in his delusions.
Only one low-profile aboriginal leader went public with some tepid criticism of Nelson's anti-Semitic comments.
None of the high-profile aboriginal politicians spoke up. It appears they only like the high-profile at election time. Oscar Lathlin, Eric Robinson, George Hickes---two NDP cabinet ministers and a speaker of the House.
When it came to a matter of principle, they took the coward's way out--silence.
Even Nelson's prediction of race war wasn't enough to stir them. And their silence only empowers him. We'll soon get to see more of his demagoguery.
His letters show that one of the buttons that Adler pushed to drive Nelson ballistic was with his discussions of an urban reserve for Winnipeg. Nelson has entered into discussions with the City of Winnipeg over an urban reserve in St. Boniface, and he's not lacking delusions of grandeur.
The complete failure of the Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative (MFAI), a ten-year experiment to develop a model for Indian self-government, along with the waste of $50 million it cost, is no deterrent to Nelson's big plans.
He already envisions building a $2 million Government House on this urban reserve, although to what end is never discussed. But Nelson's opinions about the role of natives in Winnipeg are no secret. His letters are clear:
* " We reserved our lands in treaty. Reserved means set apart, not part of. We never asked to be part of Canada or to become Canadians "
* " Canada has no legal right to collect taxes from our people in our own homelands. "
He even fosters dreams of raising a private army.
* "...we need to work together with other people or we need to be strong enough to gain the respect of white people. Under Jay Treaty we as Canadian Indians have dual citizenship in the States. At least ten Roseau River youth should join the US army in the next five years. If 633 First Nations did the same, in less than ten years Canadian Indians will have over 6000 trained soldiers."
Add these fantasies to Nelson's anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the blend is potentially disastrous.He ended his news conference with these words:
"Will there be violence between natives and whites? I stand by my prediction."
Asperville Horror may be closer than you think.