WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) – The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons apologized on Sunday for praising a World War II Nazi soldier during a parliamentary session.
Two days earlier, Speaker Anthony Rota recognized 98-year-old Yaroslav Hanka as a “Ukrainian hero” in the Canadian Parliament. Hanka served in World War II as a member of the SS’s 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, according to the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an apologetic Jewish human rights group.
In a statement Rota took responsibility for what he characterized as an oversight, calling the effort “entirely mine.”
“I later learned additional information that made me regret my decision,” he said, adding his “deepest apologies” to the Jewish community.
The recognition followed a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who expressed gratitude for Canada’s help in his country’s war against Russia.
Following Zelensky’s remarks, Rota acknowledged Hanka, who was sitting in the gallery, and praised him for fighting for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. Hanka received two rounds of applause from the crowd.
It’s incredibly troubling that Canada’s parliament, at a time of rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust devastation, is praising a man who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, the Nazi military unit responsible for killing Jews and others. Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement Sunday that they wanted to apologize.
“An explanation must be given as to how this person entered the hallowed halls of the Canadian Parliament and received recognition and a standing ovation from the Speaker of the House,” the committee added.
Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov said the embassy would send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a note to the Canadian Foreign Ministry on Monday, Russia’s RIA state news agency reported.
“We will certainly demand an explanation from the Canadian government,” RIA quoted Stepanov as saying.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, saying the goal of the “special military operation” was to Nazify and militarize its neighbors.
Kiev and its Western allies say the occupation, which has seen thousands killed and millions displaced, is an unprovoked land grab. Washington said Moscow’s false justification Because the war is nothing more than the Kremlin’s attempt to “manipulate international public opinion.”
Rota added in his statement that no one, including fellow parliamentarians or Ukrainian representatives, knew about his plans or ideas in advance.
Hanka could not be reached for comment.
Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Additional reporting by Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Mark Porter and Michael Perry
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.