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The Controversial Recognition of Yaroslav Hunka as a Canadian-Ukrainian War Hero Sparks Outrage and Resignation of House Speaker

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The recent visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Canada took an unexpected turn when House Speaker Anthony Rota introduced Yaroslav Hunka as a Canadian-Ukrainian war hero.[0] This announcement prompted a standing ovation from parliamentarians.[1] Hunka, who stood and appeared to salute from the public gallery, was recognized by Rota as a war hero from his political district. However, it later emerged that Hunka had a troubling Nazi past, as he had served in the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, which was a voluntary unit under the command of the Nazis during World War II.[2]

The recognition of Hunka as a war hero caused outrage and embarrassment in Canada and around the world. Many MPs, from all sides of the House, called for Rota's resignation.[3] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the incident as deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and all Canadians.[4] He acknowledged that only he, on behalf of all Canadians, could issue the necessary apology, even if it hurt him politically.[4]

Rota, faced with mounting pressure, announced his resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons. In his resignation statement, he expressed his regret for his decision to invite Hunka and acknowledged the pain it caused to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland. Rota's resignation will take effect at the end of the day on Wednesday.[5]

The scandal also drew the attention of the Polish government, with Poland's Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek calling for Hunka's extradition to face criminal penalties for his role in the Galician division, a unit that committed atrocities against Poles during the Second World War. Czarnek stated that he had taken steps towards the possible extradition of Hunka to Poland.

The incident has sparked a wider discussion about the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons in Canada.[4] The speaker is a non-partisan role elected by all lawmakers to oversee the functioning of parliament.[6] Rota's resignation has raised questions about the importance of upholding ethical standards in such a position and the need for thorough vetting of individuals before they are honored in parliament.

Overall, the recognition of Yaroslav Hunka as a war hero and his subsequent revelation as a former member of a Nazi military unit has caused significant embarrassment and controversy in Canada. The incident has led to the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons and calls for further investigations into the vetting process for individuals being honored in parliament. It serves as a reminder of the need to thoroughly examine and understand the backgrounds of individuals before bestowing them with such honors.[0]

0. “Nazi-linked veteran received ovation during Zelenskyy's Canada visit” POLITICO, 24 Sep. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/24/nazi-linked-veteran-ovation-zelenkyy-canada-visit-00117857

1. “Poland seeks extradition of Ukrainian SS veteran who was applauded in Canada” POLITICO Europe, 26 Sep. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/yaroslav-hunka-poland-extradite-ukrainian-ss-veteran-canada/

2. “Poland wants to extradite Canadian-Ukrainian man who served in Nazi SS unit” Ottawa Citizen, 26 Sep. 2023, https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/poland-wants-to-extradite-canadian-ukrainian-man-who-served-in-nazi-ss-unit

3. “Anthony Rota resigns as Speaker after honouring Ukrainian veteran who fought with Nazi unit” CBC News, 26 Sep. 2023, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/speaker-anthony-rota-resignation-1.6978422

4. “Trudeau's unwillingness to apologize speaks to Canada's diminishment on the world stage” The Globe and Mail, 26 Sep. 2023, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-unwillingness-to-apologize-speaks-to-canadas-diminishment-on/

5. “Canada parliament speaker steps down after honouring Nazi” Al Jazeera English, 26 Sep. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/26/canada-parliament-speaker-faces-calls-to-step-down-after-honouring-nazi

6. “Canada parliament speaker resigns after calling Ukrainian Nazi veteran a ‘hero’” The Guardian, 26 Sep. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/26/anthony-rota-canada-resigns-nazi-parliament

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