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Canada House speaker apologizes for honouring Nazi veteran during Zelenskyy visit

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The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons has apologised after honouring a Nazi veteran. 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka was invited and honoured by the House on Friday during an event just after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy delivered an address.

Zelenskyy was in Ottawa to bolster support from Western allies for Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion.

The apology came after outrage was expressed by Jewish groups after Hunka was welcomed to the House by Speaker Anthony Rota who referred to him as a “Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero”.

Canadian lawmakers cheered and Zelenskyy raised his fist in acknowledgement as Hunka saluted from the gallery as he received a standing ovation from the MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It later emerged that Hunka was part of the Nazi-led Waffen-SS Galicia Division, also known as the SS 14th Waffen Division and later First Ukrainian Division, which battled Soviet troops during World War II.

In a statement, Rota said, “On Friday, September 22, in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognised an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”

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 added.

Opposition leader of the Conservative party Pierre Poilievre attacked the prime minister saying, “This is an appalling error in judgment on the part of Justin Trudeau, whose personal protocol office is responsible for arranging and vetting all guests and programming for state visits of this kind.”

“Mr Trudeau must personally apologize and avoid passing the blame to others as he always does,” Poilievre added.

Earlier, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said “deeply troubled & disturbed” that Hunka “was celebrated with a standing ovation in the Canadian Parliament.”

In a statement, it added, “Canada’s Jewish community stands firmly with Ukraine. But we can’t stay silent when crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust are whitewashed.”

After Rota had apologised, CIJA posted on X (formerly Twitter), “Proper vetting is imperative to ensure such an unacceptable incident does not occur again.”

In another statement, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center or FSWC said, “The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking.”Canada House speaker apologizes for honouring Nazi veteran during Zelenskyy visit

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