On Friday, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the Canadian parliament, Speaker Anthony Rota recognized and lauded 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a Ukrainian and Canadian veteran who "fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russian aggressors then, and continues to support the troops today."
FSWC is appalled that Canada’s Parliament gave a standing ovation to a Ukrainian veteran who served in a Nazi military unit during the Second World War implicated in the mass murder of Jews and others. An apology and explanation is owed.- The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center
Since then, a great number of Jewish and human rights organizations have expressed their displeasure at the recognition, claiming that Hunka was a member of a Nazi military force known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
These organizations have also stated that the recognition is a violation of their rights.
Rota said in the House of Commons Monday, echoing a statement released by his office a day earlier.
I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to recognize this individual. I wish to apologize to the House. I am deeply sorry that I have offended many with my gestures and remarks.- Anthony Rota
In a previous statement, Rota expressed his "deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world." He stated he did this in the statement.
The International Military Tribunal that was held in Nuremberg in 1946 came to the judgment that the Nazi group should be considered a criminal organization since it was responsible for committing crimes against humanity as well as acts of war.
This led to the finding that the Nazi group should be classified as a criminal organization.
The jury arrived at this judgment after determining that the Nazi organization was responsible for the activities that were being investigated.
The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division was one of the subordinate divisions that operated under the control of the Nazi SS organization.
The recognition of Hunka by the parliament was "beyond outrageous," Michael Mostyn, the CEO of the Jewish human rights organization B'nai Brith Canada, said in a statement. B’nai Brith Canada said in the statement:
Hunka, who immigrated to Canada after serving in the 14th Waffen SS – a Nazi unit whose members swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler during WWII – received a standing ovation from members of Parliament and senators in attendance.- B’nai
Yaroslav Hunka, right, sits in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Onatario
“We cannot allow the whitewashing of history. … Canadian soldiers fought and died to free the world from the evils of Nazi brutality,” Mostyn said.
In its statement, B'nai Brith called the Ukrainian volunteers who served in the military unit "ultra-nationalist ideologues" who "dreamed of an ethnically homogenous Ukrainian state and endorsed the idea of ethnic cleansing."
An organization that campaigns for the protection of human rights has announced that it is expecting to get an apology from parliament in the near future.
On Monday, Rota said, "This initiative was entirely my own." He claimed full responsibility for the acknowledgment of Hunka, whom he stated is from his electoral area.
Before he made his statements, Rota stated, "No one – not even anyone among you, fellow parliamentarians, or from the Ukrainian delegation – was privy to my intention or my remarks prior to their delivery."