Canada Parliament Speaker Resigns After Tribute To Nazi Veteran

On Tuesday, the speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned, only days after publicly honoring a Ukrainian warrior who fought for the Nazis during WWII.

During Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to parliament last week, Anthony Rota recognized an elderly Ukrainian immigrant from his constituency as a hero, prompting a standing ovation.

However, Ruta has been under increasing pressure to quit because it was revealed that the veteran fought in a Nazi-linked military organization.

“It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Anthony Rota told lawmakers from the parliamentary floor.

He expressed “profound regret for my error” and the anguish he caused Jewish communities in Canada and around the world.

Despite the fact that Zelensky is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust, Russia has accused the Ukrainian government of embracing Nazi values, and the dispute was certain to add fuel to that narrative.

On Friday, Ruta paid tribute to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant from Rota’s electoral area who was visiting parliament.

He described Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” as well as “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero.”

Hunka, on the other hand, served in the SS’s 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented,” according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Jewish advocacy group called the incident “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing.”

“This incident has compromised all 338 Members of Parliament,” the organization said, adding it had “handed a propaganda victory to Russia, distracting from what was a momentously significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly joined a chorus of people calling on the speaker to resign.

“What happened on Friday is completely unacceptable,” she told reporters at parliament.

“It is an embarrassment to the House and to Canadians, and I think the speaker should listen to members of the House and step down.”

‘Deepest apologies’

Several political parties in Canada had also urged Rota, a Liberal lawmaker, to step down.

Rota, who was elected in 2004 and became speaker in 2019, apologized on Sunday, saying he had “subsequently become aware of more information” that made him regret his words about Hunka.

“This initiative was entirely my own… I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” he said.

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Rota’s remarks shameful.

The main opposition Conservatives lambasted the Trudeau administration for failing to properly screen Hunka, despite allegations that he was invited to the event with no prior notice.

After addressing the United Nations and visiting US President Joe Biden in Washington, Zelensky’s visit to Canada was the third stage of a trip aimed at building international support.

During the visit, Trudeau pledged additional aid to Zelensky’s war-torn country.

Canada has the world’s second-largest Ukrainian diaspora, and Zelensky expressed gratitude in his statement to parliament for the support offered to Kyiv since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border in February 2022.

Russia has accused Ukrainian officials of being “neo-Nazis” and has attempted to justify the war by citing the need to “denazify” its neighbor, and the dispute was expected to feed such rhetoric even more.

In response to the Ukrainian veteran’s case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, “such sloppiness of memory is outrageous,” according to Russian media.

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