Trudeau calls the standing ovation he and Zelensky gave Nazi ‘deeply embarrassing’
Posted on September 26th, 2023

Courtesy The Independent

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to outrage over the standing ovation he participated in for a war veteran who served in the Nazi Waffen-SS, calling it a mistake” and deeply embarrassing” to the country’s Parliament.

During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit on Friday, Canada’s House of Commons gave a rousing standing ovation to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran who fought in the Second World War – unaware he had served in a Nazi SS unit.

Leaders – including Mr Trudeau and Mr Zelensky – were left red-faced when House Speaker Anthony Rota subsequently apologised after it emerged that Hunka served in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command.

Mr Trudeau issued a statement on Monday condemning Mr Rota for introducing the controversial guest for applause.

Obviously it is extremely upsetting that this happened. The speaker has acknowledged his mistake,” Mr Trudeau said to the press after the veteran’s past was been pointed out by various Jewish and Holocaust education organisations. “But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.”

Mr Trudeau said he was think[ing] particularly” of Canadian Jewish MPs and citizens who were commemorating Yom Kippur.

He ended his statement with reassurance that Canada is still committed to supporting Ukraine against the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

I think it’s gonna be really important that all of us push back against Russian propaganda, Russian disinformation, and continue our steadfast and unequivocal support for Ukraine as we did last week with announcing further measures to stand with Ukraine in Russia’s illegal war against it,” he concluded.

Hunka was sitting in the gallery when he was described as a Ukrainian hero” and a Canadian hero” to applause from Mr Trudeau, Mr Zelensky and others present.

The Canadian Jewish group CIJA said it was deeply troubled” that a Nazi veteran had been celebrated, and said proper vetting is imperative to ensure such an unacceptable incident does not occur again”.

In a statement, Mr Rota said that on 22 September 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.”

Mr Rota said that 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,” the speaker added.

The remarks came shortly after Mr Zelensky delivered a passionate speech to the Canadian parliament to bolster support from his Western allies.

Mr Rota then hailed Hunka as a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero”.

Following the address, Mr Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost family members during the Holocaust, raised his fist in acknowledgement as the veteran saluted.

Hunka’s Nazi unit are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, and were visited by SS leader Heinrich Himmler in 1944 who said his men would be eager” to liquidate the Poles”.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre said Mr Rota’s remarks ignore the horrific fact that Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented”.

In a statement, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said, Canada’s Jewish community stands firmly with #Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression. But we can’t stay silent when crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust are whitewashed.”

Since his invasion in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine harbours neo-Nazis”.

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