Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized on behalf of the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday, referring to last week’s “deeply embarrassing” incident in which the House applauded a Ukrainian veteran who fought for unity Nazi soldier during World War II.
“This is an error that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada. All of us who were in this House on Friday deeply regret standing up and applauding, even though we were not aware of the context,” Trudeau said during a press briefing in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Trudeau also acknowledged the diplomatic damage done to the Ukrainian delegation present that day, which included Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I also want to reiterate how deeply sorry Canada is for the situation in which President Zelensky and the Ukrainian delegation find themselves. “It is extremely disturbing to think that this blatant error is being politicized by Russia and its supporters to spread false propaganda about what Ukraine is fighting for,” he said.
On Friday, following a speech by Zelensky, House Speaker Anthony Rota hailed veteran Yaroslav Hunka as a Ukrainian-Canadian war hero who “fought for the independence of Ukraine.” ‘Ukraine against Russian aggressors and continues to support the troops today.’
Hunka, 98, received a long ovation.
But since then, Jewish and human rights organizations have said Hunka served in a Nazi military unit known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division was part of the Nazi SS organization declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, which determined that the Nazi group had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada in a statement condemned the Ukrainian volunteers who served in the unit as “ultra-nationalist ideologues” who “dreamed of an ethnically homogeneous Ukrainian state and approved of idea of ethnic cleansing.
Rota resigned from his post amid the fallout, and Poland’s education minister issued a letter saying he was taking steps toward Hunka’s possible extradition.