Anthony Rota had described a Waffen SS member as both a Canadian and Ukrainian hero
Canadian House Speaker Anthony Rota stepped down on Tuesday after a Nazi veteran was his invited guest at a speech by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The invitation has faced widespread condemnation.
Rota apologized on Monday for the presence of 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka at Zelensky’s address to Canadian lawmakers on Friday, but refused to resign. Although lawmakers from all parties – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – cheered and applauded Hunka at the event, calls for Rota’s resignation grew over the weekend as the incident drew worldwide attention, particularly from the governments of Russia and Poland.
Rota eventually announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon, stating that he would leave his position at the end of Wednesday’s session.
“The work of this house is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your speaker,” Rota said. “I reiterate my profound regret for my error.”
Politicians from the opposition New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois parties issued the loudest demands for Rota’s resignation, with New Democrats leader Peter Julian describing the invitation as “an unforgivable error which puts the entire House in disrepute.”
Trudeau, who leads the Liberal Party, of which Rota is a member, did not call for the speaker’s resignation, but described the ceremony as “deeply embarrassing for the House and for Canada.”
During the event, Rota hailed Hunka as “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero… who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.” Rota did not mention that Hunka fought in Hitler’s elite Waffen SS, but the nonagenarian was identified by the Associated Press as a member of the First Ukrainian Division, a volunteer unit created by the Nazis in 1943.
Also known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, the unit is known to have committed atrocities against Jews and Poles during its campaign on the Eastern Front.
“There should be no confusion that this unit was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable,” the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said in a statement on Sunday.
September 26, 2023 at 11:57PM