In a major embarrassment for Ottawa, the Canadian lawmakers gave a standing ovation to a man who was introduced as a war hero after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address in the House of Commons only to later realise that he had served in a Nazi unit during World War II. The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons apologized Sunday for recognizing 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a “Ukrainian hero” before the Canadian Parliament. Hunka served in World War II as a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, according to a Jewish human rights group that demanded an apology.
“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,” Rota said in a statement. Rota took responsibility for what was characterized as an oversight, calling the initiative “entirely my own.” “I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them.”
“The initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding and having been brought to my attention,” he added, adding his “deepest apologies” to Jewish communities. Following Zelenskiy’s address in the House of Commons, Rota acknowledged Hunka, who was seated in the gallery, praising him for fighting for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. Hunka received two standing ovations from those gathered.
“At a time of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, it is incredibly disturbing to see Canada’s Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others,” the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement while demanding an apology earlier Sunday. “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,” the group added.