Speaker resigns after inviting former Nazi to Canadian parliament

The Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023
The Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 Copyright Sean Kilpatrick/AP
By Euronews with AP
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Yaroslav Hunka, 98, was given a standing ovation after being singled out by speaker Anthony Rota during President Zelenskyy's visit to Ottawa. It later emerged Hunka had fought for a Nazi unit in Ukraine in World War Two.


The speaker of Canada's House of Commons resigned on Tuesday for inviting a man who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II to Parliament to attend a speech by the Ukrainian president.

Just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an address in the House of Commons on Friday, Canadian lawmakers gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Speaker Anthony Rota drew attention to him. Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.

Patrick Doyle/AP
Yaroslav Hunka, right, waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.Patrick Doyle/AP

Observers over the weekend began to publicise the fact that the First Ukrainian Division also was known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.

"No one in this House is above any of us. Therefore I must step down as your speaker," Rota said in Parliament. "I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognising an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.

"That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world in addition to Nazi survivors in Poland among other nations. I accept full responsibility for my actions," he added.

Rota stepped down after meeting with the House of Commons' party leaders. All main opposition parties had called for Rota to step down, and House government leader Karina Gould said that lawmakers had lost confidence in Rota.

"This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to all of Parliament and indeed all Canadians. The speaker did the honourable thing in resigning," Gould said.

Gould said that Rota invited and recognised Hunka without informing the government or the delegation from Ukraine, adding that the fact that Rota didn't inform anyone and didn't do diligence broke trust with lawmakers.

Members of Parliament from all parties rose to applaud Hunka on Friday, unaware of the details of who he was.

"Never in my life would I have imagined that the speaker of the House would have asked us to stand and applaud someone who fought with the Nazis," Gould said.

"This is very emotional for me. My family are Jewish holocaust survivors. I would have never in a million years have stood and applauded someone who aided the Nazis."

Gould said Rota found out about it over the weekend. "He probably should have resigned as soon as he learned about it," she said.

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