Hunka was introduced in Canadian Parliament as 'Ukrainian hero,' but served in Nazi SS unit
Poland's education minister says he has
taken steps to effect the extradition of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian, to Poland after it emerged that the veteran served in the Nazi SS Galizien formation during the Second World War.
On Friday, Hunka was invited to sit in the parliamentary gallery by Speaker Anthony Rota for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's address to Parliament. Rota introduced Hunka as a
Ukrainian hero and a
Canadian hero, prompting a standing ovation in the House of Commons.
Over the weekend, it emerged that Hunka was part of the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament, which involved honouring, 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, Przemysław Czarnek said in a social media post Tuesday.
Rota apologized to the House on Monday, insisting the decision to invite Hunka, who lives in Rota's riding of Nipissing–Timiskaming, was entirely his own. Calls for Rota to step down continue to grow.
Rota said Monday that he personally regrets inviting his constituent and giving him attention after Zelenskyy's remarks by pointing Hunka out in the gallery.
I am deeply sorry I offended many with my gesture and remarks, Rota said.
This initiative was entirely my own. I want to really tell you that the intention was not to embarrass this House.
While Rota appeared emotional as he issued his statement, he conveyed no intention to resign.
Rota expected to meet House leaders
On Monday, the Bloc Québécois requested a meeting with Rota and the other parties' House leaders, according to a letter obtained by CBC News.
The letter, from Bloc House leader Alain Therrien, said Hunka's invitation has created
a crisis of confidence without precedent in the House of Commons. The meeting is expected to take place at noon Tuesday.
On his way into Parliament Tuesday, Rota was asked if he expects to retain his position as Speaker of the House.
We'll have to see about that, and I'm sure you'll hear more later on today, he said.
On his way into a cabinet Meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is sure that the meeting will feature
very important conversations.
As I said yesterday, this was deeply embarrassing for the House and for Canada, Trudeau said.
It is a good thing that Speaker Rota apologized personally and I'm sure he's reflecting now on how to ensure the dignity of the house going forward.
Calls to step down
Opposition parties said it's not enough for Rota to apologize for inviting Hunka to the day's festivities.
NDP MP Peter Julian, the party's House leader, said
regretfully and sadly Rota cannot continue in his role after this incident.
The Speaker has to be above reproach, Julian said.
This is an unforgivable error that puts the entire House in disrepute. Unfortunately, I believe a sacred trust has been broken.
- Russia blasts Canada over 'outrageous' reception in Parliament for Ukrainian who served in Nazi unit (new window)
On Monday afternoon, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet issued a statement calling for Rota's resignation, saying his errors have caused damage and that he has lost the confidence of the House.
Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, the party's House leader, said he doesn't accept that Rota alone was to blame for the invitation. He said the Liberal government should have done a better job of vetting who was in attendance for Zelenskyy's speech.
This is a grave incident, said Scheer, who was House Speaker from 2011 to 2015.
[Rota's] statement doesn't answer the questions around how this person was allowed to be in the chamber. A straightforward Google search will show he served in this particular division. If basic, rudimentary vetting as to who might be in the gallery isn't done — that's remarkable, Scheer said.
Rota did not share invite with PMO: Speaker's office
The Speaker doesn't report to the Prime Minister's Office. While Rota is a Liberal MP, the Speaker is elected by all members of the House.
A spokesperson for the Speaker said Rota did not share his list of invitees with the Prime Minister's Office or any of the opposition parties before Friday's event.
The Speaker was allocated a set number of spots in the viewing gallery and the list of potential guests was shared with Parliament's Protocol Office, which co-ordinates the sending of invitations.
The names of confirmed guests are then passed on to the Corporate Security Office to
facilitate accreditation of guests, Amélie Crosson, the Speaker's communications director, said in a statement to CBC News.
Mr. Hunka's son contacted Mr. Rota's constituency office and asked if it would be possible for Mr. Hunka to attend the address in the House of Commons by Mr. Zelensky. This request was accepted by the Speaker's Office, Crosson said.
Peter Zimonjic (new window) · CBC News