Canadian Parliament speaker expresses regrets for Nazi celebration after he led a standing ovation for a Waffen SS veteran
Canada’s House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota has apologized for honoring a Ukrainian man who served in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS forces in World War II, and calling him “a Ukrainian and a Canadian hero.” The 98-year old Yaroslav Hunka, a former member of the SS 1st Galician Division, was given a standing ovation in the chamber during the visit of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Friday. The incident was heavily criticized by Jewish groups.
Anthony Rota © Social media
“On Friday, September 22, in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery,” Rota said in a statement on Sunday. “I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”
Without mentioning Hunka by name, Rota reiterated that the Ukrainian man was one of his constituents. “I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said.
The 1st Galician Division was assembled the Nazis in 1943, when the Soviet Union was gaining the upper hand on the Eastern Front. It comprised some 80,000 volunteers, mainly Ukrainians, from the region of Galicia, spanning what is now southwest Poland and western Ukraine.
The infamous unit participated in brutal anti-guerrilla operations across Poland and Soviet Ukraine, and were accused of massacres and other atrocities against the Polish, Jewish and Russian civilian populations. It was crushed by the Red Army in July 1944 and soon rebranded as the Ukrainian National Army, before surrendering to the Western Allies after the fall of Berlin in May, 1945. After the war, some of the members of the 1st Galician Division fled to Canada, which has a large Ukrainian diaspora.
During his speech to the Canadian Parliament, Zelensky said Canada has always been on the “bright side of history”during previous wars, and thanked Trudeau’s government for the support it has provided to Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia.
In late August, Zelensky posted an image on social media, featuring a Ukrainian soldier sporting the patch of the 1st Galician Division. Kiev’s troops have also been spotted wearing patches of the notorious 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, one of the worst Nazi penal units, the 3rd SS Panzer Division ‘Totenkopf’, and assorted swastikas and other far-right symbols.