Trudeau Says Russians will Exploit Ovation Given to Nazi in Canadian Parliament

Sep 27, 2023 12:51 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

OTTAWA – In a development that has shaken the Canadian political landscape, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, resigned from his post after facing immense backlash for inviting a former Nazi soldier to a parliament session that included an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The controversy revolved around 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, who had volunteered with the Waffen SS Galicia Division in Ukraine during World War II. Speaker Rota acknowledged Hunka’s presence during Zelensky’s address, referring to him as a “Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero.” The Ukrainian president, along with the parliament assembly, gave Hunka a standing ovation, with Zelensky pumping his fist in the air in acknowledgment.

Jewish groups worldwide quickly expressed their indignation. Organizations such as B’nai Brith Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies vehemently condemned the ovation. The Waffen-SS unit Hunka was part of had a harrowing history, known for the mass murder of innocent civilians with intense brutality.

Prime Minister Justin Turdeau described the event as deeply distressing, causing significant embarrassment to the Canadian Parliament and its citizens. But it has been reported, by Hunka’s daughter, that Trudeau had been scheduled to personally meet the SS veteran.

Speaking on Monday, Trudeau suggested that Russia would use the appearance to push what he termed a false narrative on Ukraine, even thought the prominent presence of Nazis in the country’s military, in particular the notorious Azov Batallion, has been undeniable. “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.

But he emphasized that the Russians While Trudeau did not directly demand Rota’s resignation, he emphasized the depth of the mistake. Following the incident, Rota took full responsibility for not adequately vetting Hunka. He issued a heartfelt apology to the Jewish communities in Canada and globally.

Government House leader Karina Gould, a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, highlighted the personal pain she felt because of the oversight. “This incident hurt me personally as it hurt all members of this House and all Canadians,” Gould said.

The episode attracted global attention, with the Kremlin emphasizing it as evidence of the presence of Nazis in Ukraine – a claim previously used to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The incident inadvertently bolstered Russian propaganda, distracting from the unity displayed between Canada and Ukraine during Zelensky’s visit.

Political analysts in Canada have described the situation as highly unfortunate, with McGill University’s political science professor, Daniel Béland, stating that the sole beneficiary here seems to be Russia’s regime. The opposition Conservatives in Canada have pointed fingers at Trudeau for the blunder. However, it’s noteworthy that the Speaker’s position in Canada is a non-partisan role and is separate from the Cabinet.

In a related development, Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek announced intentions to seek Hunka’s extradition.

The oversight has, without a doubt, left a mark on Canada’s political environment, reminding leaders of the importance of historical awareness and the enduring impact of past events.