Canadian PM Justin Trudeau offers unreserved apology for honouring Ukrainian Waffen SS veteran in parliament Warsaw to seek extradition
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for applauding a Ukrainian Nazi veteran at a ceremony in parliament last week, calling the scene “deeply embarrassing for parliament and Canada.”
Speaking to reporters before addressing the Canadian House of Commons on Wednesday, Trudeau offered “parliament’s unreserved apologies for what happened on Friday,” referring to the standing ovation given by Canadian lawmakers – Trudeau included – to 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka.
Ukrainians dressed in SS Galicia Division uniforms march past graves during a re-burial ceremony at the SS Galicia Division cemetery near the village of Chervone, Ukraine, in 2013. PHOTO BY EFREM LUKATSKY/AP/FILE
At an event with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, Hunka was introduced by House Speaker Anthony Rota as “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero… who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” in World War II.
Rota resigned on Tuesday after media outlets realized that Hunka had fought with the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Ukrainian unit formed by the Nazi regime in 1943 that is known to have committed atrocities against Jews and Poles on the Eastern Front.
Officially known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, the Galicia Division was one of a number of “foreign” units of the Waffen-SS formed during the course of the Second World War.
After conquering a new corner of Europe, Nazi commanders would put out a call for volunteers to sign up for the Schutzstaffel (SS), an elite corps loyal to the Nazi Party that stood distinct from the German army.
“Your homeland has become more beautiful since you have lost — on our initiative, I must say — the residents who were so often a dirty blemish on Galicia’s good name — namely the Jews,” said Heinrich Himmler head of the SS, according to an account in the book Hitler’s Foreign Executioners.
Trudeau initially referred to the incident as “embarrassing,” but did not apologize directly or join the calls for Rota’s resignation. Speaking on Wednesday, the PM attempted to distance himself from Rota, a fellow member of the Liberal Party.
“The speaker was solely responsible for the invitation and recognition of this man, and has wholly accepted that responsibility and stepped down,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau then said that “all of us who were in this house on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context.”
Despite Trudeau claiming to have been unaware of Hunka’s membership in a Nazi unit, Rota’s description of him as a Ukrainian who “fought the Russians” in the Second World War could only have applied to someone fighting on the side of Nazi Germany.
“It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, and it was deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people,” Trudeau said of the ceremony. “It also hurt Polish people, Roma people [and] 2SLGBTQI+ people,” he continued, using a term for gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities.
The Canadian PM’s apology came amid fierce condemnation from Russia, Poland, and Jewish groups like the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, which described Hunka’s wartime unit as “responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the incident was “the best possible way to characterize the regime of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has embraced unbridled Russophobia.”
Writing on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, Polish Minister Czarnek said that “in view of the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament,” he “has taken steps towards the possible extradition” of the SS veteran to Poland. The minister also appealed to Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance to “urgently examine the documents whether Yaroslav Hunka is wanted for crimes against the Polish nation and Poles of Jewish origin.”
Commenting on a potential extradition request from Poland, however, Canadian Attorney General Arif Virani said he had not seen one. “What I would say to you is that an extradition process is a sensitive matter,” he told Politico. He refused to elaborate on the issue until the document was produced for him, arguing that this “would jeopardize the investigation.”
Source AFP/Reuters/RT/National Post