In World War II, millions of Ukrainians actively participated in the struggle against Germany, while regrettably, there were individuals who aligned themselves with the Nazis. Canada’s assembly speaker recently paid tribute to one of these soldiers.
On September 22, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the members of the Canadian House of Commons. During this occasion, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rota specifically highlighted the retired Ukrainian soldier Yaroslav Hunka.
Mr. Hunka, who is 98 years old, was visibly moved as Rota commended his contributions during World War II, where he fought for Ukrainian independence in opposition to Russia. Rota went on to describe the elderly gentleman as both a Ukrainian and Canadian hero. While the moment appeared heartwarming at the time, it subsequently emerged that this tribute had some contentious aspects.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, an advocacy group representing the Jewish community, issued a statement expressing their deep dismay over the enthusiastic reception accorded to Hunka. This was primarily due to his affiliation with the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a voluntary unit that served under the Nazis.
FSWC is appalled that Canada’s Parliament gave a standing ovation to a Ukrainian veteran who served in a Nazi military unit during the Second World War implicated in the mass murder of Jews and others.— Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (@CanadianFSWC) September 24, 2023
An apology and explanation is owed.https://t.co/ZkzIkOCvBe
The organization insisted on an apology and highlighted that the Waffen-SS was implicated in the persecution and murder of Jewish people and others. While it’s worth noting that Hunka’s specific unit was not individually prosecuted during the Nuremberg Trials, the overall alignment of the unit with Nazi Germany remains indisputable.
Rota expressed regret for his oversight, admitting that he was unaware of the Nazi Germany connection when he honored the Ukrainian soldier.
However, the apology failed to quell the concerns of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. On September 26, the organization demanded Rota’s resignation. In their statement, they acknowledged the speaker’s apology but asserted that the ceremony had cast a shadow over Canada’s esteemed legislature and inadvertently provided a propaganda advantage to Russia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau placed responsibility for the incident on the speaker and reaffirmed his support for Ukraine.