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Canada Parliament Speaker Resigns Over Tribute to Nazi Veteran

The Speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned on Tuesday following a controversy surrounding his public celebration of a Ukrainian veteran with ties to Nazi-linked military units during World War II. Anthony Rota made the remarks during a visit by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the Canadian parliament. Rota’s praise of the veteran prompted a standing ovation but led to increasing calls for his resignation as details about the veteran’s past came to light.

In his resignation announcement from the parliamentary floor, Rota expressed profound regret for his error and the pain it had caused to Jewish communities in Canada and worldwide. The controversy also played into Russia’s narrative, accusing the Ukrainian government of espousing Nazi ideals, despite President Zelensky being Jewish and having lost family members in the Holocaust.

The veteran in question, Yaroslav Hunka, had served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit known for its crimes against humanity during the Holocaust.

The incident was met with shock and condemnation from various quarters, including Jewish advocacy groups. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center called it “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing.” They stated that it had handed a propaganda victory to Russia, detracting from the significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine during Zelensky’s visit.

Multiple political parties in Canada had urged Rota, a Liberal lawmaker who had been Speaker of the House of Commons since 2019, to step down.

Rota had apologized on Sunday, acknowledging that he had “subsequently become aware of more information” that led him to regret his initial remarks about Hunka. He took full responsibility for the initiative and extended his deepest apologies to Jewish communities.

Canada is home to a large Ukrainian diaspora, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged additional aid to Ukraine during Zelensky’s visit. Russia has accused Ukrainian leaders of being “neo-Nazis” as part of its justification for the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

In response to the controversy, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called it “outrageous sloppiness of memory.” In Poland, Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek raised the possibility of seeking Hunka’s extradition to face possible charges related to crimes against Poles or Polish Jews during World War II.

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