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Canada’s House Speaker Says Sorry for Praising a Ukrainian WWII Veteran with Controversial Past

Canada’s House Speaker Says Sorry for Praising a Ukrainian WWII Veteran with Controversial Past

After giving a person with a controversial wartime history a standing ovation in the House of Commons, Canada is now in the middle of a growing political scandal. The cheers happened soon after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to the Canadian parliament. In the meeting, Anthony Rota, the speaker of the assembly, brought up Yaroslav Hunka, who is 98 years old, and called him a “war hero” who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.

The Controversial Ovation

Photographs from the event show Zelenskiy and Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, standing and cheering for Hunka. This has been criticized by Jewish groups. Lawmakers cheered, and Zelenskiy raised his fist to show appreciation. Hunka saluted from the audience twice, and lawmakers cheered again.

The Historical Context

The event caused a lot of debate because the First Ukrainian Division is also known as the Waffen-SS “Galicia” Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division. It was a volunteer unit that worked for the Nazis during World War II.

For a long time, the decision to let about 600 members of the division live in Canada after the war has been controversial, with claims that they killed Polish and Jewish civilians. As a whole, the Nuremberg tribunals found the Waffen-SS guilty of war crimes, but the Galicia division was not specifically named.

Speaker Rota apologized after the event, saying that he felt bad about mentioning Hunka in his speech. He made it clear that neither the other members of parliament nor the Ukrainian delegation knew about his plan to honor Hunka, who was from his district. Rota told Jewish communities all over the world that he was very sorry for what he did.

A lot of Jewish groups and organizations, like the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, were very upset about how Hunka was recognized in the Canadian parliament and asked for an apology and an explanation.

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative party, also asked Prime Minister Trudeau to say sorry, but Trudeau’s office said that Speaker Rota had already done so and taken full responsibility for what happened.

Questioning Memorials and Research

Concerns over the controversy show how hard it is to honor people who fought with the Nazis in World War II. It has also made people question some memorials in Canada, like those for the Waffen-SS Galicia division and people who worked with the Nazis. The historical background of the Galicia division is still being talked about and researched in Canada.

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