Yaroslav Hunka fought in the 1st Galician division
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the decision to invite a Ukrainian veteran who fought in a Nazi unit to a recent parliamentary event honouring Ukraine's president was
House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota is facing calls to resign from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois after he extended an invitation to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian who now lives in North Bay, Ont., to witness Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's address to Parliament on Friday.
The two opposition parties said it's not enough for Rota to apologize for inviting Hunka to the day's festivities.
Speaking briefly to reporters on Parliament Hill, Trudeau stopped short of calling for Rota to step aside from the role he's held since 2019.
It's extremely upsetting that this happened. The Speaker has acknowledged his mistake and has apologized, Trudeau said.
But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.
Trudeau warned that this event may fuel Russian propaganda. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed the Ukraine conflict is about rooting out Nazis.
I think it's going to be really important that all of us push back against Russian disinformation and continue our steadfast unequivocal support for Ukraine, Trudeau said.
Rota praised Hunka, a constituent of his Nipissing–Timiskaming riding, as a
Ukrainian hero and a
Canadian hero and prompted a standing ovation for the man.
The Speaker apologized to MPs in person at the opening of Parliament on Monday.
I am deeply sorry I offended many with my gesture and remarks, he said. "This initiative was entirely my own.
I want to really tell you that the intention was not to embarrass this house.
House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota will address Parliament Monday — the day after apologizing for inviting a Ukrainian war veteran who fought in a Nazi-aligned unit to Ottawa for a speech.
Rota invited Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian who now lives in North Bay, Ont., to witness Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's address to Parliament on Friday.
Rota celebrated Hunka, a constituent of his Nipissing—Timiskaming riding, as a
Ukrainian hero and a
Canadian hero, and prompted a standing ovation for the man.
Rota has since apologized, saying he takes full responsibility for putting Hunka on the guest list.
CBC News reported Sunday that Hunka fought in the 1st Galician division, a branch of Nazi Germany's Waffen-SS, in the Second World War.
In a decade-old article in a Ukrainian-language magazine, Hunka recounts his time in the division.
None of us asked what our reward would be...or even what our tomorrow would look like. We felt our duty to our native land — and left! Hunka wrote.
A request for comment to Hunka and his relatives went unanswered. Hunka has previously said he fought for Ukrainian independence during his war service.
Jewish groups are outraged that MPs, senators and dignitaries applauded Hunka.
WATCH: House Speaker apologizes for honouring Ukrainian who fought with Nazi unit
House Speaker apologizes for honouring Ukrainian who fought with Nazi unit
House Speaker Anthony Rota has apologized after arranging for a Ukrainian constituent to be honoured by MPs during President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit. Yaroslav Hunka fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.
The fact that this individual, and by proxy the organization he was a member of, was given a standing ovation in the House of Commons is deeply troubling, Dan Panneton, a director with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said in an interview.
I think association with this unit makes you a Nazi collaborator. To be part of this unit, you swore allegiance to Hitler and you were involved with the massacre of civilians. So it doesn't matter if you try and claim that you were defending against communism, you were still involved with the Nazi war machine. That makes you complicit, Panneton said.
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