International

Canada: House Speaker Anthony Rota Resigns Over Inviting A Man Who Fought For A Nazi Unit To Parliament

Last week, the controversy stemmed from the incident when just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an address in the House of Commons on Friday, Canadian lawmakers gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Speaker Anthony Rota drew attention to him.

Speaker of Canada's House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota
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Amid the row over inviting a man who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II to Parliament to attend a speceh by the Ukrainian president Zelenskyy, the speaker of Canada's House of Commons, Anthony Rota resigned Tuesday.

Last week, when Rota introduced 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.during World War II, Members of Parliament from all parties, unaware of the fact that he was a member of a Nazi battalion that fought the Allied Forces, rose to applaud Hunka.

The prime minister's office said it was unaware that Hunka was invited until after the address. The speaker's office also confirmed it did not share its invite list with any other party or group. The vetting process for visitors to the gallery is for physical security threats, not reputational threats, the speaker's office said. 

What is the controversy all about?

Last week, the controversy stemmed from the incident when just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an address in the House of Commons on Friday, Canadian lawmakers gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Speaker Anthony Rota drew attention to him. Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.

Observers over the weekend began to publicize the fact that the First Ukrainian Division also was known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.

What did the speaker say?

“No one in this House is above any of us. Therefore I must step down as your speaker,” Rota said in Parliament. “I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.

"That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world in addition to Nazi survivors in Poland among other nations. I accept full responsibility for my actions," he added. 

Rota stepped down after meeting with the House of Commons' party leaders later Tuesday. All main opposition parties called for Rota to step down, and government House leader Karina Gould said that lawmakers had lost confidence in Rota. 

“This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to all of Parliament and indeed all Canadians. The speaker did the honorable thing in resigning,” Government Liberal House leader Karina Gould said.

Gould said she is of Jewish origin and a descendent of a Holocaust survivor. “This incident hurt me personally as it hurt all members of this House and all Canadians," she said. 

In an earlier apology on Sunday, Rota said he alone was responsible for inviting and recognizing Hunka, who is from the district that Rota represents. The speaker's office said Monday it was Rota's son who contacted Hunka's local office to see if it was possible if he could attend Zelenskyy's speech.

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