Nazi veteran lauded at Zelensky‘s speech embarrasses Trudeau

From left: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend a media conference to announce a ‘Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine’ by the G7 states and the EU during the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 12 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Valda Kalnin)

Canadian lawmakers are demanding that a parliamentary official resign after he invited a Ukrainian World War 2 veteran who fought in a Nazi unit to be a featured guest during President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s speech last week.

The episode is deeply embarrassing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though his staff say the government had no previous knowledge about the invitation, and neither did the Ukrainian delegation.

The guest, Yaroslav Hunka, was invited to the House of Commons by its presiding officer, Speaker Anthony Rota, who introduced the 98-year-old after Zelenskiy’s speech on Friday. Rota, a Liberal lawmaker, described him as a Ukrainian-Canadian World War 2 veteran “who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians”.

The entire chamber gave Hunka a standing ovation, including Trudeau and the Ukrainian president, who raised his fist.

Over the weekend, Jewish organisations in Canada demanded an apology for Hunka’s invitation, pointing to his history of serving with the 1st Galician division, a unit of the German military’s Waffen-SS.

The timing of the incident is highly unfortunate for Zelensky. On the margins of the United Nations annual gathering, he fell out with Poland, his ally and neighbour, and his visit to Washington was in marked contrast from last year’s warm welcome, when support for his efforts to repel Russia from Ukraine was far more forthcoming.

His visit to Ottawa was originally viewed as a success, given that Canadian lawmakers of all political stripes broadly agree on the scale of support for Ukraine.

“Obviously it’s extremely upsetting that this happened,” Trudeau told reporters Monday. “The speaker has acknowledged his mistake and has apologised. But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.”

Rota apologised, but has so far refused to resign over the incident, despite opposition political parties calling for him to do so. In a prepared statement on Monday morning, Rota told lawmakers his intention had been to “show that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not a new one”.

‘Deeply sorry’

“I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to recognise this individual,” Rota said, adding that Hunka lived in his electoral district. “I am deeply sorry that I have offended many with my gesture and remarks.”

He said it was his decision alone to invite Hunka, and nobody else was “privy to my intention or my remarks prior to their delivery”.

Rota’s role as speaker of the House of Commons is elected by lawmakers from all parties in the chamber, and it is unclear whether he can stay on.

Peter Julian, who serves as House leader for the New Democratic Party, said Rota had made an “unforgivable error which puts the entire house in disrepute”.

“Regrettably, I must respectfully ask that you step aside,” he said.

The Bloc Quebecois, a Quebec-based party, has also urged Rota to quit.

But Trudeau’s Liberal Party caucus has so far not asked for Rota’s resignation, instead seeking to have Hunka’s recognition in the chamber stricken from the official record.

The story was swiftly picked up by Russian state-controlled media RT and Sputnik. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine as aiming to “de-Nazify” the country, even though Zelensky himself is Jewish.

Russia’s embassy in Canada said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter), that the standing ovation for Hunka was “yet another” insult by the Trudeau government to the “memory of Canada’s sons and daughters who fought Nazism in WWII”.

Poland’s ambassador to Canada, Witold Dzielski, has called for an apology over the incident.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I find this confusing. Surely we’re all victims of war? Apart of course from the leaders and the sadistic murderers on all sides? I have as much sympathy for the foot soldiers who act as cannon fodder in every war. I have sympathy for the Russian and the Chinese people particularly as they’ve never had a chance, especially of course the soldiers being sent to their deaths by a rich madman. Presumably Hunka was one of them too? Methinks they do protest too much.

  • One has to know some history, before jumping to conclusions and throwing stones. First of all, it was a small percentage of Ukrainians who decided to join the German military’s Waffen-SS during the WW2. Secondly, they joined the Germans not because they shared their ideology, but in order to be professionally trained and get access to the weapons to be able to fight for their own Ukrainian state against the Soviet Union. In fact, eventually they were fighting against the Germans and the Russian Communists! They all saw that alliance as an opportunity. Again, it was a small percentage of Ukrainians. On the other hand, almost 7 million of Ukrainians lost their lives fighting in the ranks of the Red Army against the Nazi Germany. And that is despite the fact that at least 5 million of Ukrainian people were starved to death during the Great Ukrainian Famine organized by Stalin and his henchmen in 1930-1933.
    As far as this Ukrainian Canadian is concerned, since he is a citizen of Canada, he must have been checked by the Deschenes Commission. It means that he has no blood on his hands!
    Today, Ukrainians are fighting against the Nazis of the 21st century, the Russians. They invaded Ukraine, killed, executed, tortured, wounded hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, ruined homes, hospitals and schools. They keep shooting, bombing, shelling, launching short-range and long-range missiles taking more and more lives of Ukrainian men, women and children. The world has to pay attention and take action immediately, before that cancer tumor spreads all over the world.

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