It’s a good thing Parliament returned from summer break, because, finally the government has been able to give serious attention to the very real problems facing the nation. It’s great to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally tackling inflation, housing affordability and national security. It is so refreshing that Canada is back. This is definitely not the kind of country where pretty much every elected federal politician would celebrate a Nazi soldier by accident. Certainly not.
Sigh. If only any of this were true. Unfortunately, Canada would have been better off if the 300-or-so honourable members of Parliament had stayed on break, perhaps permanently.
Instead, Canadians have had to endure the governing Liberals and the Opposition Conservatives argue over who is to blame for the spectacle of giving a standing ovation in the House of Commons to a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran of the Second World War, a man who fought in a division of the Waffen-SS, as in for the Nazis, as in for Hitler — Adolf Hitler. The unit was responsible for massacring Jewish and Polish civilians.
The celebration tainted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Canada. Russia’s propagandists quickly seized on images of Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, clapping for the soldier to help bolster the lie that Ukraine is controlled by Nazis.
It was a mistake to invite the former Nazi soldier to Zelenskyy’s address, and definitely a mistake to present him as a “hero.”
The whole controversy might have been avoided if former Speaker Anthony Rota, who invited the former soldier as his guest, or any of his staff, had ever bothered to pick up a history book.
That said, people do make mistakes. Apologies could have been quickly made, regret expressed and the country, slightly red faced, could have moved on. But that was not to be, as this is Canada.
On Sunday, Rota issued an apology that claimed he was solely responsible. Other Liberals, including the prime minister, refused to take any responsibility for days, despite the fact that they were there clapping along with everyone else. They all kept pushing the blame onto Rota.
Even if the Speaker, who resigned Tuesday, is responsible for inviting the man as his guest, other Liberal MPs also made fools of themselves. The same goes for Conservative, NDP and Bloc MPs.
If you accidentally step on someone’s foot, just because you didn’t see it, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apologize. Just because, we hope, most MPs didn’t realize who they were applauding for in the House, doesn’t mean they can simply blame it on Rota and be absolved of all guilt.
As for Trudeau, the standing ovation was always an international problem, because of the presence of Zelenskyy. Therefore, if he had apologized quickly, instead of waiting until Wednesday, it would have shown that he at least takes being prime minister seriously.
The rest of the world does not care if the Nazi soldier was invited by the “independent” Speaker, and it certainly doesn’t care about Liberal schemes to try to turn it into a Conservative scandal, as they did when they tried to have the record of the incident stricken from Hansard.
Once Trudeau apologized “on behalf” of (ital)Parliament,(ital) that should have been the end of it. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are intent on dragging this sorry mess out even longer, as they are demanding the prime minister declare himself “personally” responsible and apologize on behalf of the (ital)government.(ital)
It is a distinction only partisans on Twitter care about. And, again, Conservative politicians were also clapping for the Nazi. No one wants to wear this because it is phenomenally embarrassing, but adults should act like adults, even if they are MPs.
We don’t think there needs to be massive new vetting processes put in place. We just want politicians to exercise a little bit of discretion — and maybe pop a name into Google once in a while.
What makes the behaviour of our elected officials over the past week all the more galling is the fact that while buck-passing and refusal to take responsibility for celebrating a Nazi soldier dominated the political agenda, an actual war is still being waged against democratic Ukraine by an authoritarian menace. The often ridiculous way Canadian politicians spend their time is a luxury that Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian leaders simply do not have.