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Canada parliament speaker resigns after tribute to Nazi vet

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Montreal, Canada – The speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned on Tuesday, days after he singled out a Ukrainian veteran who apparently fought for the Nazis during World War II for a standing ovation during a visit by Ukraine’s leader.

“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 lawmakers from the parliamentary floor, expressing his “profound regret for my error.”

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Rota continued, saying his resignation would be effective by the end of Wednesday.

Hunka’s parliamentary recognition “caused pain to individuals and communities, including to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, in addition to Nazi survivors in Poland, among other nations,” Rota added.

Rota had been facing growing pressure to step down after the incident on Friday, during a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to parliament.

At the time Rota paid homage to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who was also visiting parliament and who is from Rota’s electoral district.

He hailed Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero,” prompting a standing ovation from members.

But Hunka actually served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented,” according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Jewish advocacy group called the incident “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing.”

On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly joined a chorus of people calling on the speaker to resign.

“What happened on Friday is completely unacceptable,” she told reporters at parliament.

“It as an embarrassment to the House and to Canadians, and I think the speaker should listen to members of the House and step down.”

– ‘Deepest apologies’ –

Several political parties in Canada had also urged Rota to step down.

Rota, a Liberal MP, apologized on Sunday, saying that he had “subsequently become aware of more information” which caused him to regret his remarks about Hunka.

“This initiative was entirely my own… I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” he said.

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Rota’s remarks shameful.

The main opposition Conservatives slammed the Trudeau administration for failing to properly vet Hunka, despite claims it had no advance notice he’d been invited to the event.

Zelensky’s visit to Canada was the third leg in a tour aimed at bolstering international support, after addressing the United Nations and visiting US President Joe Biden in Washington.

During the visit, Trudeau pledged additional aid to Zelensky’s war-torn country.

Canada is home to the world’s second-largest Ukrainian diaspora and Zelensky, in his speech to parliament, expressed thanks for the backing given to Kyiv since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian borders in February 2022.

 

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