Canadian House of Commons speaker resigns after honoring Ukrainian who fought for Nazis | ET REALITY


The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons resigned Tuesday after apologizing again for portraying as a “hero” a 98-year-old Ukrainian who had served in a Nazi SS unit just after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed a joint session of Parliament.

Speaker Anthony Rota on Friday introduced Yaroslav Hunka, a constituent from his constituency, as “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero,” prompting two standing ovations from lawmakers and other guests, as well as a fist pump from Zelensky. who is Jewish

But over the next few days, several Jewish groups expressed anger and indignation, saying that Hunka had been a member of a volunteer Nazi unit known as the 14th SS Waffen Grenadier Division, which fought alongside Germany during World War II and declared his loyalty. to Hitler.

After days of being asked to resign, Rota announced his resignation on the day he was scheduled to host an annual garden party at his official country residence.

“This House is above any of us,” he told his fellow lawmakers. “I reiterate my deep regret.”

Rota apologized for the first time over the weekend for both his invitation and for introducing Hunka, noting that he “subsequently learned more information.”

While Rota is a member of Parliament for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, he is not a political power broker like his counterpart in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Speakers of the House of Commons of Canada serve as non-partisan arbiters of the chamber and are independent of the government. The president, not the government, controls all activity and conduct within the chamber, as well as its employees.

Rota said he did not inform the Canadian or Ukrainian governments of his plan to invite Hunka. Still, Trudeau’s political opponents immediately called on the House of Commons and the prime minister to formally apologize on behalf of Canada to Jews in Canada and abroad.

Trudeau was in Toronto for an event with auto parts manufacturers. Karina Gould, leader of the government chamber, responded on her behalf by repeatedly pointing out that the invitation to Mr. Hunka was made without the government’s knowledge.

Gould, who is Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, said she “never in a million years would have applauded someone who helped the Nazis” if she had been aware of Hunka’s past.

Lori Turnbull, a professor of public and international affairs at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said quiet diplomatic efforts would be insufficient to repair the damage caused by the issue.

He said no one doubts that “it was a genuine mistake” on Mr. Rota’s part. “But that doesn’t matter,” he said. “The thing is, we’re still the country that got Zelensky to applaud a guy who fought with the Nazis.”

He added: “I don’t see how this can be resolved without the Prime Minister acknowledging that something really horrible has happened.”

Professor Turnbull said that because the speaker symbolizes Parliament’s independence from the government, it would have been inappropriate and unusual for Rota to have passed his guest list through the prime minister’s office.

But Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative leader whose party leads Trudeau’s Liberals in polls, blamed Trudeau for not vetting the guests who joined lawmakers for Zelensky’s speech.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister, Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, said responsibility for security clearances at the event rested solely with the House of Commons, not with any police, security or intelligence agency reporting to the government.

The first calls for Rota to resign came from Jagmeet Singh, leader of the centre-left New Democratic Party. They accelerated on Tuesday in the run-up to a lunchtime meeting Rota had scheduled with leaders of all parties in the House of Commons.

In the hours before Rota’s announcement, the deputy prime minister, the foreign minister, the industry minister and the government’s leader in the House of Commons had told reporters that he should resign.

In the House of Commons, opposition Conservatives said the episode influenced Russian propaganda. Collaboration between supporters of Ukrainian independence and Nazi forces during World War II has been an important element of Moscow’s false narrative that the current government in Kiev has been infiltrated by neo-Nazis.

The 14th Waffen SS unit was made up of volunteers from the Galicia region, which stretched across parts of what is now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. After the Soviet occupation of western Ukraine in 1939, the unit’s creation in 1943 attracted Ukrainians eager to fight for their independence, said Dominique Arel, a professor of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa.

“Being trained by SS officers, you can imagine the kind of political indoctrination they received,” he said. Even if its goals were independence, Arel said the unit “fought and was trained by the Nazis. No doubt about it”.

Canada has long taken the position that simply being a member of the 14th Waffen SS division was not a war crime, although people could be prosecuted for specific atrocities. A national commission determined in 1985 that there was no evidence linking former members of the division in Canada to war crimes. Jewish groups have criticized that stance, and outrage over Hunka renewed calls for a reassessment.

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