Canadian Parliament Faces Backlash for Giving Standing Ovation to WWII Veteran with Nazi Ties
Canadian Jewish organizations and social media critics are condemning the Canadian Parliament for applauding a man with Nazi connections during an event featuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to the country. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), a Canadian nonprofit dedicated to Holocaust education, expressed their shock and demanded an apology for honoring Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who served in a Nazi military unit.
Video and photos captured the Canadian Parliament erupting into cheers during Zelenskyy’s visit to Ottawa, as lawmakers honored Hunka, who fought for the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division. The division was a paramilitary arm of the Nazis responsible for the murder of Jews and others, and it was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials.
“The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking,” stated the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. They expressed their concern regarding rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust distortion, emphasizing that celebrating an individual associated with a criminal organization during a time when such ideologies are resurfacing is deeply disturbing.
Social media commenters have joined the criticism, referring to Hunka as a “literal Nazi” and a “monster.” Canadian columnist Joe Warmington called for a “full apology” in an op-ed published in the Toronto Sun, condemning the celebration of a Second World War Nazi in the House of Commons.
In response to the backlash, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office issued a statement, declaring that the Speaker of the House has apologized and accepted full responsibility for inviting Hunka and recognizing him in Parliament. Trudeau’s office emphasized that the invitation and recognition were made without any advance notice to the Prime Minister’s Office or the Ukrainian delegation.
Hunka was invited by House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, who introduced him as a war hero. However, Rota expressed regret over his decision, stating that he became aware of more information about Hunka’s background, leading him to reconsider his invitation.
The standing ovation occurred during Zelenskyy’s first visit to Canada since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of the previous year. Zelenskyy thanked Canada for its support on the battlefield, financially, and with humanitarian aid, while Trudeau highlighted Canada’s provision of around $6.7 billion USD in military and humanitarian support to Ukraine since the start of the war.
The controversy brings attention to the need for sensitivity and awareness surrounding the historical context of individuals being honored in public events, especially when it comes to those with ties to Nazi organizations responsible for mass atrocities.