The Speaker of the Canadian Parliament resigns after a dispute over tribute to the Nazi veteran

The Speaker of the Canadian Parliament resigns after a dispute over tribute to the Nazi veteran

House Speaker Anthony Rota, who became president in 2019, apologized on Sunday amid major controversy.

Ottawa:

The speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned Tuesday, days after publicly celebrating a former Ukrainian soldier who fought alongside the Nazis during World War II.

During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to parliament last week, Antony Rutte praised an elderly Ukrainian migrant from his region as a hero, drawing loud applause.

But Rutte faced increasing pressure to resign after it emerged that the war veteran had served in a Nazi-linked military unit.

“It is with a heavy heart that I come forward to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Rutte told lawmakers from the parliament floor.

He expressed his “deep regret for my mistake” and the pain it caused to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world.

Russia has accused the government in Kiev of adopting Nazi ideals, despite Zelensky being Jewish and losing family members in the Holocaust, and the controversy is likely to add substance to this narrative.

On Friday, ROTA paid tribute to Jaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian migrant visiting parliament who is from the Rota electoral district.

He praised Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian World War II veteran who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero.”

But Honka actually served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well documented,” according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Jewish advocacy group called the incident “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing.”

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“This incident has put all 338 Members of Parliament at risk,” the organization said, adding that it “provided a propaganda victory for Russia, distracting from what was a critically important show of unity between Canada and Ukraine.”

– ‘Deepest apologies’ –

Several political parties in Canada urged Rutte, the Liberal MP, to step down.

Rutte, who was first elected in 2004 and became speaker of parliament in 2019, apologized on Sunday, saying he “then learned more information” that made him regret his comments about Hunka.

“This initiative was entirely mine… and I especially want to extend my deepest apologies to the Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday called Rutte’s comments shameful.

The main opposition Conservative Party criticized the Trudeau administration for failing to properly vet Honka, despite claims she had no advance notice of his invitation to the event.

Zelensky’s visit to Canada was the third stop on a tour aimed at strengthening international support, after delivering a speech before the United Nations and visiting US President Joe Biden in Washington.

During the visit, Trudeau pledged additional aid to Zelensky’s war-torn country.

Canada is home to the second-largest Ukrainian community in the world, and Zelensky, in his speech to Parliament, expressed his thanks for the support provided to Kiev since the influx of Russian troops across the Ukrainian border in February 2022.

Russia accused Ukrainian leaders of being “neo-Nazis” and sought to justify the war by the need to “cleanse” its neighbour.

Commenting on the case of the Ukrainian veteran soldier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Such confusion in memory is outrageous,” Russian media reported.

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In Poland, Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnik raised the possibility of seeking Honka’s extradition.

Zarnik wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he had commissioned the National Institute for Historical Research to find out whether Honka was wanted for crimes against Poles or Polish Jews.

“I have taken steps toward possible extradition of this man to Poland,” Tsarnik wrote.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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