Canadian Speaker Steps Down in Controversial Recognition of Ukrainian with Nazi Ties

Canadian House of Commons Speaker, Anthony Rota, has resigned following the controversial acknowledgment of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian who had ties with the Nazi regime, as a “hero.”

by Faruk Imamovic
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Canadian Speaker Steps Down in Controversial Recognition of Ukrainian with Nazi Ties
© Getty Images News/Katherine KY Cheng

Canadian House of Commons Speaker, Anthony Rota, has resigned following the controversial acknowledgment of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian who had ties with the Nazi regime, as a “hero”.

Mistaken Hero or Historical Oversight?

Rota's decision to invite Hunka to a special parliamentary session had drawn widespread criticism.

“This House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your speaker,” announced a somber Rota, expressing deep regret over his decision to publicly recognize Hunka. This recognition elicited standing ovations from several members of the House of Commons, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

However, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a prominent Jewish community group, quickly highlighted Hunka's questionable past. They noted his service in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS military unit, which was under the Nazi regime.

Rota, acknowledging the controversy, stated in Parliament, “I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House”. He further elaborated on the pain this recognition has inflicted on various communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and globally, as well as survivors of Nazi atrocities in countries like Poland.

Poland Seeks Extradition

The ripples of this controversy have reached international shores. Following the scandalous proceedings in the Canadian Parliament, Poland has indicated interest in seeking Hunka's extradition. Poland’s Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek said, “In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament, which involved honoring, in the presence of President Zelenskyy, a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation, I have taken steps towards the possible extradition of this man to Poland”.

Rota's resignation is set to come into effect at the end of the day on Wednesday, marking an end to this chapter in Canadian parliamentary history. Yet, this incident serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of deep historical understanding and the responsibilities of public figures in acknowledging and celebrating heroes.

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