In a major embarrassment for Canada, it was revealed that a Ukrainian veteran, invited to Canada’s parliament on the occasion of a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the weekend, had served in the Waffen SS during WWII.
The Speaker of Parliament introduced 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to Zelenskiy and his wife and called him "a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran of World War II who fought for Ukraine's independence against Russians." The house then rose to give the veteran a standing ovation.
The occasion, which included the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, went sour when a Jewish organisation revealed that Hunka had served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) during the war – a tactical unit of Nazi Germany's SS forces that recruited Ukrainian volunteer collaborators.
The Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Anthony Rota, quickly assumed responsibility for the incident, stating that Hunka's invitation was "entirely his initiative," unknown to his colleagues or the Ukrainian delegation. He expressed deep regret for the situation and issued a formal apology, particularly to the Jewish communities in Canada and worldwide.
"Additional information has come to my attention that makes me regret my decision to do so. I want to make it clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the delegation of Ukraine, knew of my intention or my remarks before I made them. This initiative was entirely my own ... I especially want to offer my deepest apologies to the Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions," Rota stated.