Canada House Speaker quits after praising Nazi: ‘Reiterate my profound regret’

Sep 27, 2023 06:12 AM IST

Speaker Anthony Rota publicly praised 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka who was part of the Nazi.

The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons has announced he is resigning from the post, days after he accepted blame for inviting a person who was part of a Nazi unit was invited to an event in the chamber on Friday in honour of visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Speaker Anthony Rota made the announcement in the chamber on Tuesday, as he said, “The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker.”

Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota.(REUTERS)
Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota.(REUTERS)

“I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House,” he added.

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Rota had earlier apologised after outrage was expressed by Jewish groups after 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka was welcomed to the House by Rota as "a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero” to applause from MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It later emerged that Hunka was part of the Nazi-led Waffen-SS Galicia Division, also know as the SS 14th Waffen Division and later First Ukrainian Division, which battled Soviet troops during World War II.

The announcement came even as Trudeau was absent from the House. While the Speaker has taken responsibility of the invitation, the opposition attacked the Government for the international embarrassment the incident had caused not only to Canada but also to Ukraine. Poland has already said it could request Hunka’s extradition from Canada.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre asked where Trudeau was: “Why is he hiding?”

He added, “Our nation's reputation is in tatters. Will he stand up and apologize for this mess he helped create?”

The Jewish group, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre or FSWC said that the incident "handed a propaganda victory to Russia" and called for hearings into the lapses in the vetting process.

Trudeau had earlier described the episode as “deeply embarrassing” but the PMO placed the onus entirely upon Rota.

In a statement on Sunday, Rota said, “On Friday, September 22, in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”

“I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he had added.

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