Canada's parliament speaker apologizes after honoring Nazi-linked veteran

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 25 2023 01:16 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2023 07:21 PM

This photo posted on the Parliament of Canada Facebook page shows the House of Commons in session. 
This photo posted on the Parliament of Canada Facebook page shows the House of Commons in session. 

MONTREAL, Canada — The speaker of Canada's parliament apologized Sunday after he singled out a Ukrainian veteran alleged to have fought for the Nazis during World War II for a standing ovation during a visit by Ukraine's leader.

The applause came as President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Canadian parliament on Friday, as Speaker of the House Anthony Rota paid homage to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant.

Rota hailed Hunka as "a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians" and "a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero."

The remarks ignore "the horrific fact that Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented," the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said Sunday.

The Jewish advocacy group called the incident "shocking" and "incredibly disturbing".

"An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation," it continued.

Rota, a Liberal MP, apologized on Sunday, saying that he had "subsequently become aware of more information" which caused him to "regret" his recognition of Hunka.

"This initiative was entirely my own ... I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office denied any involvement in the affair, reiterating its independence from that of the Speaker of the House and saying in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, that neither it nor the Ukrainian delegation had any advance notice of the incident.

That did not stop the leader of the opposition, Pierre Poilievre, from slamming an "error in judgement."

Trudeau's "personal protocol office is responsible for arranging and vetting all guests and programming for state visits of this kind," the Conservative leader posted on X, calling on the prime minister to "personally apologize."

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