Canadian Government Apologizes for Honoring Nazi, Zelensky Stays Silent
Over the weekend, the Canadian parliament along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received widespread condemnation for giving a standing ovation to honor a Nazi from World War 2. The incident created renewed criticism of Ukraine’s Nazi problem while putting Canada on the radar of antisemitism.
On Friday (September 22), the speaker of Canada’s House of Commons, Anthony Rota, acknowledged the presence of a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran of World War 2, the 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, in the House. The members of parliament (MPs) along with Zelensky and Trudeau cheered and gave a standing ovation to Hunka.
Condemnation of the incident followed immediately in form of comments pouring in on videos of the incident with many Canadians and some Ukrainians reminding that the Nazis slaughtered both Canadians and Ukrainians during the World War 2, thus shaming the incident.
Seeing the anger and grievance gushing toward it, the Canadian government decided to apologize for honoring Hunka. House Speaker Rota offered an apology and attempted to appease the critics by claiming that he was not fully aware of Hunka’s Nazi background.
“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 gesture and remarks.”
Left-leaning media went into damage control mode as the backlash over the incident filled social media and started making headlines. The Independent wrote that the Canadian parliament “accidentally” honored the Nazi. Toronto Star published an opinion piece on Monday attempting to defend President Zelensky against the backlash, arguing that the Ukrainian President is “the man who should not pay that price.”
Canadian PM Trudeau released a video apologizing for the incident and blaming the Speaker of the House for “his mistake” while in the same sentence calling for pushing back against “Russian propaganda” and “Russian disinformation.”
Trudeau’s office denied the claims that the PM met Hunka in a private meeting.
Toronto-based journalist Sheldon Kirshner wrote in The Times of Israel on Monday that this shameful and embarrassing incident was clearly avoidable and should never have taken place. Dismissing the apology from Rota, Kirshner wondered whether Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, had a role in inviting Hunka to the parliament.
A Ukrainian Canadian, her late grandfather was a paid propagandist for Nazi Germany in Poland. Interestingly enough, she has remained deafeningly silent since Hunka’s appearance in Parliament, as have Ukrainian Canadian community organizations.
On Monday, Canada’s opposition leadership called on the House Speaker to resign in wake of his blunder which, according to Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, has resulted in his loss of confidence of the House.
The governments of Russia and Belarus have officially condemned the honoring of Hunka by the Canadian government and Zelensky. At the time of this writing, President Zelensky or his office has not offered any apology or addressed the incident in any official statement.