The recent controversy surrounding the Canadian government’s recognition of former Nazi soldiers highlights the need for thorough vetting processes and historical investigations before bestowing prestigious honors.
In a recent development, Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon has issued an apology for awarding the Order of Canada to Peter Savaryn, a former Nazi soldier, in 1987. It has come to light that Savaryn served in Nazi Waffen SS units during World War II. This apology follows a recent scandal in Canada’s parliament, where an elderly Ukrainian man who fought with Nazi Germany was applauded by lawmakers during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
These incidents have prompted calls from Jewish groups for the Canadian government to acknowledge and investigate other Nazi veterans residing in the country. It is important to note that while millions of Ukrainians served in the Soviet Red Army during the war, thousands fought on the German side under the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the Galicia Division. Some of these Ukrainian soldiers later emigrated to Canada.
The controversy surrounding Savaryn’s award highlights the importance of thorough vetting processes and historical investigations before honoring individuals. The Order of Canada is a prestigious civilian honor that recognizes outstanding achievement and contributions to the country. However, historical appointments should be based on accurate and comprehensive information available at the time.
As fallout from these incidents continues, Jewish groups have called for the release of a 1980s report that investigated the alleged presence of war criminals in Canada. The report, known as the Deschenes Commission report, concluded that there was no evidence linking Ukrainians who fought with Nazi Germany to specific war crimes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that the government is looking into publishing the full report and is committed to a thorough examination of the issue.
In response to these revelations, the University of Alberta, where Savaryn served as chancellor, has launched a review of donations from individuals known to have served in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS. This includes a donation of CA$30,000 ($21,880; £17,950) from Ukrainian veteran Yaroslav Hunka, which the university has pledged to return.
These incidents serve as a reminder of the importance of addressing historical controversies and ensuring that honors and recognitions are bestowed upon deserving individuals with a clear understanding of their background and actions. By conducting thorough investigations and implementing robust vetting processes, Canada can uphold its commitment to justice and accountability.