The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons apologized Sunday for praising an individual at a parliamentary meeting who served in a Nazi unit during the Second World War.
Two days earlier, Speaker Anthony Rota had recognized 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka before the Canadian parliament as a “Ukrainian hero.” Hunka served in World War II as a member of the SS’s 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, according to the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization that demanded an apology.
In a statement, Rota took responsibility for what was characterized as a mistake, calling the initiative “entirely my property.”
“Subsequently, I became aware of more information that made me regret my decision,” he said, adding his “deepest apologies” to the Jewish communities.
The recognition came after a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who thanked Canada for its help in his country’s war against Russia.
After Zelensky’s comments, Rota recognized Hunka, who was in the stands, and praised him for his fight for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. Hunka received two standing ovations from those present.
“At a time of increasing anti-Semitism and distortion of the Holocaust, it is incredibly disturbing to see the Canadian parliament stand up to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit of the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch that responsible for the murder of Jews and others. the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement, demanding an apology earlier Sunday.
“An explanation must be given as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canada’s parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a standing ovation,” the group added.
Russia’s state news agency RIA quoted Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, as saying the embassy will send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a note to Canada’s Foreign Ministry on Monday.
“We will of course demand clarification from the Canadian government,” RIA Stepanov said.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, saying the aim of the “special military operation” was to de-Nazify and demilitarize its neighbor.
Kiev and its Western allies say the aggression, which has since left thousands dead and millions displaced, was an unprovoked land grab. Washington has said that Moscow’s false justification for the war was nothing more than the Kremlin’s attempt to “manipulate international public opinion.”
Rota added in his statement that no one, including fellow parliamentarians or the Ukrainian delegation, was aware of his plans or comments in advance.
Hunka could not be reached for comment.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)