The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada announced his resignation on Tuesday after the scandal caused by the tribute paid in parliament to a Ukrainian veteran who fought with the Nazis during the Second World War, on the occasion of Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit .
“It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Anthony Rota told parliament, speaking of “his deep regret for his mistake.” The latter had been under pressure since last weekend since the opposition parties were calling for his resignation – just like the leaders of his own clan, the Liberals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The latter spoke on Monday of an “unacceptable” and “deeply embarrassing” tribute.
Hunka presented as a “Ukrainian hero”
During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Ottawa on Friday, Anthony Rota applauded Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran accused of having fought in the SS, in parliament. He presented this man as a “Ukrainian hero”, coming from his electoral district. MPs from all parties, Justin Trudeau, his government and Volodymyr Zelensky, of Jewish faith, stood up to applaud Yaroslav Hunka, ignoring the details of his past.
According to the Canadian Jewish community advocacy group, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), Anthony Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the The Holocaust are well documented.
“This gesture of public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada (…) as well as Holocaust survivors in Poland. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he added.
For the opposition, it is a “propaganda victory for Russia”
Anthony Rota apologized for the first time on Sunday for this invitation, explaining “that he was the only one responsible for this initiative”. But his excuses were not enough in the face of the controversy which threatened to fall on the Canadian Prime Minister. On Tuesday, many members of the government took to the front: Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, felt that Anthony Rota had no choice and had to resign, speaking of “shame for Canadians”.
For the Conservative Party, the main opposition force in Canada and rising in the polls, the Trudeau government is responsible for not having checked Yaroslav Hunka’s background before paying tribute to him. For Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this incident “compromised the integrity of all 338 members of Parliament and also offered a propaganda victory to Russia”. Moscow has often justified its intervention in Ukraine since February 2022 by explaining that it must combat the “neo-Nazism” of the Zelensky government.
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