Ottawa: The speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned this week, days after publicly celebrating a Ukrainian veteran who fought for the Nazis during World War II. During a visit to parliament by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky last week, Anthony Rota hailed an elderly Ukrainian immigrant from his district as a hero, prompting a standing ovation.
But Rota has faced growing pressure to resign after it was revealed that the veteran had served in a Nazi-linked military unit. “It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Rota told lawmakers from the parliamentary floor.
He expressed his “profound regret for my error” and the pain he caused to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. Russia has accused the government in Kyiv of espousing Nazi ideals, despite Zelensky being Jewish and losing family members in the Holocaust, and the controversy was likely to add fodder to that narrative.
Last week, Rota paid homage to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who was visiting parliament and who is from Rota’s electoral district. He hailed Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero.”
But Hunka actually served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented,” according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The main opposition Conservatives slammed the Trudeau administration for failing to properly vet Hunka, despite claims it had no advance notice he’d been invited to the event.
Zelensky’s visit to Canada was the third leg in a tour aimed at bolstering international support, after addressing the United Nations and visiting US President Joe Biden in Washington. During the visit, Trudeau pledged additional aid to Zelensky’s war-torn country.