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Canadian Parliament speaker resigns after recognizing Ukrainian Nazi war veteran

Rota's recognition came following speech to House of Commons by Zelenskyy

Yaroslav Hunka receiving a standing ovation during a Canadian parliamentary session, Sept. 22, 2023 (Photo: Screenshot)

Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota announced his resignation on Tuesday following the uproar over his recognition of a Ukrainian World War II veteran who was a member of a Nazi Waffen SS unit.

Following a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the House of Commons, Rota recognized Yaroslav Hunka, noting that he was a “Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service.”  

When announcing his resignation, Rota said, “I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.”

Rota had previously apologized for the recognition of Hunka, saying that he was unaware of Hunka’s Nazi connection.

“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,” Rota said in a statement after Hunka’s SS connections were revealed.

Several opposition politicians had called for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to also apologize, however, he did not.

Several Jewish agencies, including Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) in Canada, protested the recognition, saying the Waffen SS Galicia Division, which Hunka was a member of, was “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn also demanded an apology for the blunder.

“We understand an apology is forthcoming. We expect a meaningful apology. Parliament owes an apology to all Canadians for this outrage, and a detailed explanation as to how this could possibly have taken place at the center of Canadian democracy,” Mostyn said before Rota released his apology.  

The FSWC welcomed Rota's resignation following its announcement.

“Although important questions remain as to how this debacle occurred, Anthony Rota’s stepping down is the correct decision in the aftermath of the hurt this incident has caused to Canada’s Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, veterans and other victims of the Nazi regime.”

“This incident also reminds us of Canada’s shameful past in not only failing to hold accountable thousands of Nazi war criminals involved in the Holocaust but granting them safe haven and allowing them to live out their lives in comfort and security in Canada,” said FSWC CEO and President Michael Levitt.

On Tuesday, following Rota’s announcement of his resignation, Poland's Education Minister, Przemysław Czarnek, announced on social media that he is seeking the extradition of Hunka to Poland for war crimes.

“In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament, which involved honoring, in the presence of President Zelenskyy, a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation, I have taken steps towards the possible extradition of this man to Poland.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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