Canadian speaker apologises after ovations for man who fought for Nazis
Speaker Anthony Rota said he regretted his invitation in a statement.
The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons Anthony Rota has issued an apology days after he drew attention to a man who fought in a military unit under the Nazis in the Second World War.
Yaroslav Hunka, 98, received two standing ovations from Canadian MPs in the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.
On Friday, speaker Anthony Rota introduced Mr Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.
The First Ukrainian Division was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit under Nazi command.
The apology came in the wake of a statement from The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies on Sunday which said Mr Hunka and his division “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable”.
The statement said: “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 the Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation.”
Shortly after the statement from The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, Mr Rota issued one of his own to express regret after honouring the elderly man after discovering more of his history.
Mr Rota said: “In my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.
“I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my action.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office also issued a statement on the issue, that stated Mr Rota had apologised and accepted full responsibility for issuing the invitation to Mr Hunka.
It also said Mr Rota accepted responsibility for the Nazi soldier’s invitation to parliament.
The statement said: “This was the right thing to do. No advance notice was provided to the Prime Minister’s Office, nor the Ukrainian delegation, about the invitation or the recognition.”
Canadian parliamentarians cheered while Mr Zelensky raised his fist to acknowledge Mr Hunka in Canada’s parliament on Friday.
Mr Hunka saluted from the gallery during two separate standing ovations.
Mr Rota then called him a “Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero” and thanked him for his military service.
The Ukrainian president was in Ottawa to bolster support from Western allies for Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion.