The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons resigned on Tuesday, days after he welcomed a man who fought for the Nazi army to attend a speech by the Ukrainian president. During the speech, the man was publicly introduced and received applause.
On Tuesday, President Anthony Rota addressed Canadian lawmakers, expressing regret for inviting 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the House of Commons on Friday.
“No one in this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must resign as your speaker,” Rota told parliament on Tuesday. “I repeat my deep regret for my mistake in recognizing a person in the Parliament during the joint speech in the Parliament of President Zelensky.
He added: “This public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as Nazi survivors in Poland among other nations. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
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Rota, 62, faced calls to resign after it emerged that Hunka, presented in Parliament on Friday as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division, was actually serving in a Nazi command unit.
Over the weekend, as Zelenskyy’s remarks began to circulate online and additional attention was paid to Hunka’s presence at the event, people clarified that the First Ukrainian Division was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, or SS 14th Waffen Division, a volunteer unit that was under Nazi command.
House of Representatives government leader Carina Gould said lawmakers lost confidence in Rota over the accident.
“This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to the entire parliament and indeed to all Canadians. The speaker did the honorable thing by resigning,” Gould said.
Rota apologized on Sunday, saying he alone was responsible for inviting and recognizing Hunka, who is from the region Rota represents. The speaker’s office said Hunka’s son contacted Rota’s local office to see if he could attend Zelenskiy’s speech.
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Gould, 36, reiterated that Rota was solely responsible for inviting and identifying Hunka without informing the government. He also said Rota didn’t adequately inform anyone or do his due diligence, breaking trust with lawmakers.
Members of parliament from all parties rose to applaud Hunka on Friday, ignoring his previous work for the Nazi regime.
“Never in my life would I have imagined that the speaker of the House would ask us to stand and applaud someone who fought the Nazis,” Gould said.
The House leader added: “This is very moving for me. My family are Jewish Holocaust survivors. I would never in a million years have stood and applauded someone who helped the Nazis.”
Gould also said that Rota should have resigned earlier: “He probably should have resigned as soon as he found out.”
At X, Gould urged members of parliament to “refrain from politicizing this incident,” as several lawmakers met Hunka and took photos with him during Friday’s event, still unaware of his story.
“The President has now made it clear that he was responsible for inviting this person to Parliament. The Government played no part. He did not know he was going to be there. The Prime Minister did not meet him. I am deeply troubled that it happened.” wrote Gould.
“Like all MPs, I had no more information than the President gave. On leaving the room I walked by the person and took a picture. As a descendant of Jewish Holocaust survivors, I would ask all MPs to stop politicizing an issue which concerns many, myself included,” he added.
Canadian Health Minister Mark Holland also called the incident as a whole “incredibly embarrassing”.
Opposition Conservative leader Pierre Poliev blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and said everyone in the House of Commons on Friday should have been properly vetted with Zelensky present.
“Canada’s reputation has been shattered. This is by far the biggest blow Canada’s diplomatic reputation has ever taken in history, and it happened under Justin Trudeau’s watch,” Poilievre said.
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The prime minister’s office said it did not know Hunka was invited until after the speech.
Rota has been Speaker of the House of Commons since 2019.
Fox News’ Emma Colton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.