Canadian Speaker Forced to Issue Apology After Honoring Soldier On Wrong Side of WWII

( – During World War II, millions of Ukrainians fought to defeat Germany. Unfortunately, there were others who stood alongside the Nazis. One of those soldiers was recently honored by Canada’s assembly speaker.

On September 22, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to lawmakers in the Canadian House of Commons. During the event, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rota singled out retired Ukrainian soldier Yaroslav Hunka. The 98-year-old man wiped away tears as Rota praised him for his service in WWII, where he “fought for Ukrainian independence against Russia.” He went on to call the elderly man “a Ukrainian hero [and] a Canadian hero.” The moment seemed very sweet while it was happening, but as it turns out, it wasn’t such a nice tribute after all.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group, released a statement saying they were “appalled” by the standing ovation given to Hunka. That’s because the military unit he served in was the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a volunteer unit that served Nazis. The group demanded an apology and pointed out that the Waffen-SS was responsible for “the murder of Jews and others.” During the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was accused of war crimes, though Hunka’s unit was not among those singled out at the trials. Still, the unit’s support for Nazi Germany is undeniable.

Rota apologized for his mistake. He said he was not aware of the connection to Nazi Germany at the time he honored the Ukrainian soldier.

The apology wasn’t enough to satisfy the members of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. On September 26, the organization called on Rota to resign. In a statement, the members said they acknowledged the speaker’s apology but said the ceremony “left a stain on [Canada’s] venerable legislature […] and has also handed a propaganda victory to Russia.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the incident on the speaker and reaffirmed his support for Ukraine.

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