Leading Canadian politician forced to resign after honoring a Nazi with standing ovation
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A leading Canadian politician has been forced to resign after honoring a man who fought for the Nazis with a standing ovation.
In a parliamentary meeting on Friday (22 September), the speaker of Canada's House of Commons Anthony Rota praised 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a 'Ukrainian hero'. Hunka served in a Nazi unit during World War II.
According to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group that demanded an apology, Hunka served as a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
Members of said division have been accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, however, that particular unit has yet to be found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal.
The human rights group released a statement on Sunday which read: "At a time of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, it is incredibly disturbing to see Canada's Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others."
They added: "An explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation."
Hunka was invited to Canada's parliament during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the country.
Rota has since issued a statement on the matter, saying: "In my remarks following the address of the president of Ukraine, I recognised an individual in the gallery.
"I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so."
The politician added: "No one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them.
"This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding [district] and having been brought to my attention."
"I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions," he added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also previously released a statement saying the incident was 'extremely upsetting', before adding: "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."
Subsequently, many called for Rota to resign which he has now done as of this afternoon (26 September).
"It’s with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons," he said in a brief statement to a partially full House.
He added: "The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker. I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.
"That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world in addition to survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland, among other nations."
Before Rota's resignation, Trudeau's office released a statement saying Rota's previous apology was 'the right thing to do'.
"This was the right thing to do," the statement said. "No advance notice was provided to the Prime Minister’s Office, nor the Ukrainian delegation, about the invitation or the recognition."
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