By: Cassie B. 09/26/2023
Last Friday, Sept. 22, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who fought during World War II was honored by the Canadian parliament, where he received a standing ovation from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While this may sound reasonable on the surface, there is one aspect of the story that has drawn criticism from around the world: the man in question, Yaroslav Hunka, was a Nazi SS soldier.
Hunka was described before the Canadian Parliament as a “veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his age of 98.” House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota called him a “Canadian hero” and a “Ukrainian hero” before prompting a standing ovation for him.
However, his record indicates that he fought with the Nazis as part of the 14th Waffen, or SS Galizien, during the Third Reich. SS Galizien was a division made up mostly of Ukrainian volunteers after being set up by Nazi Germany in 1943.
They took part in horrific acts against civilians. Some of their atrocities included enforcing the racial purity policies of the Nazis, destroying and annihilating entire villages, and causing thousands of residents to be displaced, taking part in anti-partisan operations that caused countless civilian casualties, and playing a role in the mass murder of Jewish and Polish civilians.
The Canadian Parliament’s actions were condemned by the Canadian Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), who stated on X: “We are deeply troubled & disturbed that a Ukrainian veteran of the infamous 14th Waffen Grenadier of the Nazi SS – which actively participated in the genocide of Jews – was celebrated with a standing ovation in the Canadian Parliament.”
Speaker of Canadian House of Commons apologizes
The Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Anthony Rota, has already apologized for honoring Hunka and claims he was not aware of his questionable past. Speaking about honoring Hunka, he noted: “I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”
He added that he acted alone in recognizing the man and that Trudeau and others were not aware of his intention to do so beforehand.
He said: “I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Rota is currently facing calls from opposition parties to resign over the incident; they say that an apology is not enough to make things right. Although Trudeau has not called for his resignation, he did say the nation was embarrassed by his actions.
Trudeau said: “It’s extremely upsetting that this happened. The Speaker has acknowledged his mistake and has apologized. But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre implied that Trudeau was simply trying to shift the blame and should have vetted a guest list before the incident.
He said: “Canadians are sick and tired of a prime minister who never takes responsibility for the things that happen on his watch.” He said that Trudeau is always trying to find “someone else to throw under the bus” and then pointed to Rota and asked him if he was that person in this case.
Other Canadian politicians have pointed out that the situation was easily avoidable as a simple online search would have revealed the damning information about Hunka and his Nazi past.