The Speaker of Canada’s parliament, Anthony Rota, has resigned amidst a growing controversy surrounding his public praise of a Ukrainian veteran who served in a Nazi-affiliated military unit during World War II. The incident took place during a visit to the parliament by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky last week, where Rota hailed an elderly Ukrainian immigrant from his district, Yaroslav Hunka, as a hero, leading to a standing ovation.
However, Rota’s celebration of Hunka, who was later revealed to have served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit with well-documented crimes against humanity during the Holocaust, drew significant criticism and calls for his resignation.
On Tuesday, Rota announced his resignation from the position of Speaker of the House of Commons, expressing his “profound regret for my error” and acknowledging the pain caused to Jewish communities in Canada and globally.
The incident has also raised concerns in international politics, with Russia accusing the Ukrainian government of espousing Nazi ideals, despite President Zelensky being Jewish and having lost family members in the Holocaust. This controversy threatens to further fuel Russia’s narrative on this matter.
Rota’s initial remarks had praised Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero.” The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group, described the incident as “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing.”
Several Canadian political parties had called for Rota’s resignation, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labeled his remarks as “shameful.” The opposition criticized the government for not properly vetting Hunka before the event.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky, during his visit, received additional aid commitments from Canada, strengthening international support for his war-torn country. Canada is home to the world’s second-largest Ukrainian diaspora.
Meanwhile, Russia has consistently accused Ukrainian leaders of being “neo-Nazis” and has used this rhetoric to justify its actions in the ongoing conflict.
In Poland, there are discussions about the possibility of seeking Hunka’s extradition for alleged crimes against Poles or Polish Jews. Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek announced that he has initiated steps toward exploring the potential extradition of Hunka to Poland.
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Image Source: Reuters