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Canada’s House Speaker apologizes after Nazi honored in parliament

Anthony Rota had praised Yaroslav Hunka, who served in the Waffen SS, as a "Ukrainian hero" and a "Canadian hero."

Yaroslav Hunka, who fought in a Nazi unit during World War II, was inadvertently honored by the Canadian House of Commons, Sept. 22, 2023. Source: YouTube.
Yaroslav Hunka, who fought in a Nazi unit during World War II, was inadvertently honored by the Canadian House of Commons, Sept. 22, 2023. Source: YouTube.

The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons, Anthony Rota, apologized on Sunday after honoring a Ukrainian man who fought in a Nazi unit during World War II.

“I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision,” said Rota in a written apology. “I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them.”

“I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” he added.

Rota’s apology came in response to outrage from Jewish groups, conservative parliament members and others after he referred to a Ukrainian man, Yaroslav Hunka, on Friday as a “Ukrainian hero” and a “Canadian hero” and as someone who fought against Russia for Ukrainian independence.

Hunka, who was present, waved from the gallery as he received a standing ovation, including from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who had just addressed the chamber.

Hunka, 98, had served in a Nazi unit known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.

The fact that Hunka was given a standing ovation is “deeply troubling,” Dan Panneton, director of allyship and community engagement at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, told CBC News.

“The unit is complicit in the Holocaust. They collaborated with the Nazis and they participated in the massacre of civilians. These are in many ways crimes that have not fully been answered for in historical memory and which, by honoring them in our house of legislature absolves the unit … of its historical crime,” he said.

Trudeau’s office said neither it nor Zelenskyy were given any advance notice of the invitation to Hunka, adding that the apology “was the right thing to do.”

Canadian Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer framed it as a security issue, asking the speaker in parliament:

“Is it the government’s position that when we have a foreign head of state, that the government does zero security vetting for who will be in that same room as that head of state? Is that the message that we’re sending to our allies? That when they come here, you don’t know who’s going to be in the gallery?”

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