Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota resigned from his post Tuesday, days after praising a Ukrainian veteran who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II.
On Friday, following a joint speech in Parliament by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rota hailed Yaroslav Hunka, 98, as a Ukrainian-Canadian war hero who “fought for Ukraine’s independence against Russian aggressors at the time and continues to support the troops today.”
But since then, Jewish and human rights organizations have condemned Rota’s recognition, saying Hunka had served in a Nazi military unit known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
“This house is above each of us, so I must resign as president,” Rota told Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, reiterating his “deep regret for my mistake.”
“This public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, in addition to survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland, among other countries,” added Rota, a member of the party liberal. . “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Rota’s recognition of Hunka last week drew a standing ovation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “deeply embarrassing.”
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.
Acknowledging Hunka was “beyond outrageous,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, adding: “We cannot allow history to be whitewashed.” »
“Canadian soldiers fought and died to free the world from the evils of Nazi brutality,” he said.
Rota apologized in a statement on Sunday and in parliament on Tuesday, when he said he had “become aware of more information that makes me regret my decision to recognize this individual.”
Rota took full responsibility, saying it was his decision alone to recognize Hunka, who Rota said came from his electoral district.
“No one – not even anyone among you, dear parliamentarians, or in the Ukrainian delegation – was aware of my intention or my remarks before they were delivered,” he said.