Speaker of Canada‘s House of Commons Anthony Rota on Sunday apologized for paying tribute to a man who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II.
The bungle occurred shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the House of Commons on Friday. Canadian lawmakers then gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Speaker Anthony Rota called attention to him.
Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought with the First Ukrainian Division. This division was also known as the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
What did Rota say?
“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.
He added that his fellow parliamentarians and the Ukrainian delegation were unaware of his plan to recognize Hunka.
“I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my action,” Rota said.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies issued a statement Sunday saying the division “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”
Trudeau praises the apology
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said in a statement that Rota had apologized and accepted full responsibility for issuing the invitation to Hunka and for his recognition.
“This was the right thing to do,” the statement said. “No advance notice was provided to the Prime Minister’s Office, nor the Ukrainian delegation, about the invitation or the recognition.”
Zelenskyy was in Ottawa to build support among Western allies for Ukraine’s war against Russian invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has portrayed his enemies in Ukraine as “neo-Nazis,” even though Zelenskyy is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.
dh/kb (AP, Reuters)