Canada’s House of Commons on Tuesday elected Greg Fergus as its new speaker, making the Liberal Party lawmaker the first black Canadian to hold the post after the previous speaker resigned for unknowingly inviting a former Nazi soldier into Parliament.
Members of the 338-seat House voted for Greg Fergus in a secret ballot. Fergus fielded candidates including fellow Liberal MP Sean Casey, Conservative Chris d’Entremont and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
“Today you are the first Black Canadian to become speaker,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “It should be inspiring to all Canadians, especially the younger generations who want to get involved in politics.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is intended to be an impartial mediator of parliamentary procedure, seeking to maintain order and decorum during debates. The speaker only votes to break a tie and plays a ceremonial role as an institutional representative of parliament.
Former chairman Anthony Rota, a member of the ruling Liberal party, resigned last week. He took full responsibility for inviting Yaroslav Hunka, 98, a Polish-born Ukrainian who served in one of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS units during World War II, to the House of Representatives when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on 22 September spoke.
Without knowing Hunka’s full background, Rota publicly recognized him as a veteran soldier for Ukraine and a hero who had immigrated to Canada, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to formally apologize for the blunder last week.
The role of speaker comes with a salary increase of almost C$93,000 ($68,000) per year, added to the base salary of C$194,600 for a lawmaker, and an official estate in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills.
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