THE speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned on Tuesday, days after publicly celebrating a Ukrainian veteran who fought for the Nazis during World War II.
During a visit to parliament by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky last week, Anthony Rota hailed an elderly Ukrainian immigrant from his district as a hero, prompting a standing ovation.
But Ruta has faced growing pressure to resign after it was revealed that the veteran had served in a Nazi-linked military unit.
“It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Anthony Rota told lawmakers from the parliamentary floor.
He expressed his “profound regret for my error” and the pain he caused to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world.
Russia has accused the government in Kyiv of espousing Nazi ideals, despite Zelensky being Jewish and losing family members in the Holocaust, and the controversy was likely to add fodder to that narrative.
On Friday, Ruta paid homage to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who was visiting parliament and who is from Rota’s electoral district.
He 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.”
But Hunka 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.”
“This incident has compromised all 338 Members of Parliament,” the organization said, adding it had “handed a propaganda victory to Russia, distracting from what was a momentously significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine.”
On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly joined a chorus of people calling on the speaker to resign.