The House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament staged a controversial event this Friday in which it paid tribute to a veteran of the Waffen-SS, who fought on the German side during World War II.
The event took place during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's trip to the country. As part of the visit, Zelensky gave a speech at the headquarters of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. After this, Anthony Rota, speaker of the House of Commons, asked the members of the room to pay tribute to a 98-year-old man whom he had invited to the session.
In the Canadian Parliament, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, along with Zelensky and his wife, gave a standing ovation to 98-year-old Jaroslav Hanka, a Ukrainian Nazi, who fought in the 14th Waffen-SS Galizien Grenadier Division.
🇨🇦🇺🇦 | En el Parlamento canadiense, el primer ministro de Canadá, Trudeau, junto con Zelenski y su esposa aplaudieron de pie a Jaroslav Hanka de 98 años, nazi ucraniano, que luchó en la 14.ª División de Granaderos Waffen-SS Galizien.
Sin embargo, fue presentado como "veterano de… pic.twitter.com/PZKTREvpYq
— Alerta News 24 (@AlertaNews24) September 24, 2023
This was Yaroslav Hunka, a Ukrainian who emigrated to Canada after World War II, and who fought in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, also known as the First Galicia Division, in reference to the Central European region. The corps was made up of Ukrainian volunteers who fought on the German side in the war. The SS, which stands for Schutzstaffel, was the paramilitary armed wing of Nazi Germany, contrary to the Bundeswehr, the national army.
Despite Hunka's record, Speaker Rota presented him before the House as a war hero who fought for Ukraine against the Russians. "He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service." Those attending the event applauded the veteran despite his political affiliation, something unusual in the Canadian Parliament.
Soon, several organizations representing the Jewish community raised their concerns about the events in the Canadian Parliament. According to the National Post, The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies issued a statement on Sunday recalling that the First Galicia division of the SS "was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable":
An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation.
Apologies from the speaker
A statement of apology was issued from Speaker Rota's office on Sunday.
In my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognised 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 action.
On September 22, in the House of Commons, I recognized an individual in the gallery. I regret my decision to do so, and accept full responsibility for my actions. Read my statement here: https://t.co/Hd9chtHFNJ
— Speaker of the HoC (@HoCSpeaker) September 24, 2023
Rota's office added that his colleagues in Parliament were not aware of his intention to honor Hunka, who resides the speaker's electoral district.