Canadian Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota issued an apology Sunday for recognizing a 98-year-old Nazi Waffen-SS veteran for a standing ovation during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the Canadian Parliament last week.
Following President Zelensky’s remarks Friday, Rota recognized elderly 3rd Reich veteran Yaroslav Hunka as a “Ukrainian hero” — a decision which he said Sunday was entirely his own.
Hunka served as a member of the 13th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Nazi SS, a division which — as noted by the community note below the X post above — is accused of having committed several massacres against Jews, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Russians throughout World War II.
The Canadian Parliament rose to give Hunka two standing ovations Friday, with the Canadian public media network CBC calling Hunka a “Ukrainian-Canadian who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians during the Second World War.”
“I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision, Rota said in a statement Sunday, extending his “deepest apologies” to Jewish communities.
The House Speaker said that “no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them. This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding [district] and having been brought to my attention.”
“The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking,” the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) said in a Sunday statement, demanding an apology.
“At a time of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, it is incredibly disturbing to see Canada’s Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others and that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials,” FWCS stated.
“An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation,” the organization stated.
The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that “No advance notice was provided to the Prime Minister’s Office, nor the Ukrainian delegation, about the invitation or the recognition,” and that the apology “was the right thing to do.”
Trudeau’s office also denied allegations of a private meeting between Hunka and the prime minister.
As part of Zelensky’s visit to the Canadian Parliament, Trudeau announced a series of new sanctions against Russia and a $650 million three-year aid package to Ukraine to assist their war effort against Russia.
“Canada will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes. As Ukrainians continue to fight for their freedom and their democracy, our support will be unequivocal until they are victorious. Slava Ukraini!” the prime minister said Friday.