Canada's house speaker resigns after inviting NAZI to parliament

Anthony Rota resigns as Canada’s house speaker after inviting Nazi war criminal Yaroslav Hunka to appear before lawmakers who applauded him

  • Anthony Rota announced Tuesday he was stepping down as speaker 
  • He sparked backlash after inviting a Nazi veteran to parliament

The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons has resigned in disgrace after inviting a Nazi veteran into parliament last week, who he praised as a ‘hero.’

Anthony Rota announced Tuesday he was stepping down as speaker after he welcomed Yaroslav Hunka, 98, to the chamber alongside Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Hunka, who served in the infamous SS division of the Nazi regime often dubbed ‘Hitler’s bodyguards’, was given a standing ovation in parliament. He made his appearance as Zelenskyy implored Canadian lawmakers to bolster his opposition to the Russian invasion as it stretches into the winter months. 

But Hunka’s past was revealed only after Canadian leaders heaped on praise and took pictures with the Nazi, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau branded ‘deeply embarrassing.’ 

Rota apologized for the scandal on Sunday and said he only became aware of Hunka’s history after the appearance, saying he wanted to ‘extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world.’ 

Four days after the regretful moment, Rota resigned following a meeting with the House of Commons party leadership, saying: ‘No one in this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your speaker.’ 

Anthony Rota announced Tuesday he was stepping down as speaker after inviting a Nazi SS veteran to Canada’s parliament, describing him as a ‘hero’

On Friday, Nazi veteran Yaroslav Hunka was praised as a ‘Ukrainian hero’ in Canada’s parliament in a visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 

Continuing his resignation speech, which he delivered in front of parliament Tuesday, Rota said: ‘I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.

‘That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world in addition to Nazi survivors in Poland among other nations. I accept full responsibility for my actions.’ 

Rota’s decision to step down came after a meeting that included government House leader Karina Gould, who said lawmakers had lost confidence in Rota following the scandal. 

But Gould herself came under fire for the humiliating trip, after posing for a smiling picture with Hunka in the halls of parliament.

She later claimed she was unaware of Hunka’s past before the snap was taken and blamed Rota, saying on X: ‘Like all MPs, I had no further information than the Speaker provided.

‘Exiting the Chamber I walked by the individual and took a photo. As a descendent of Jewish Holocaust survivors I would ask all parliamentarians to stop politicizing an issue troubling to many, myself included,’ she added. 

After Rota’s resignation, Gould said: ‘This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to all of Parliament and indeed all Canadians. The speaker did the honorable thing in resigning.’ 

Rota has acknowledged that he invited Hunka without informing either the government or Zelenskyy’s delegation. His office also noted that the vetting process for invitees in the chamber is for security threats, not reputational ones. 

Government House Speaker Karina Gould (left) was criticized after posing for a picture with the Nazi, but argued she did not know of his history before the snap was taken 

Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS during World War II, one of the most feared units in the Nazi arsenal 

Hunka’s disturbing history was only revealed after his appearance in Canada’s parliament on Friday, where he appeared alongside Zelenskyy as the Ukranian president gave an impassioned speech about the war in his nation as it stretches into the winter. 

But while Zelenskyy’s speech was widely praised, people were appalled to discover Hunka’s time in the SS – one of the most feared units in the Nazi arsenal who were often described as ‘Hitler’s personal bodyguards.’

According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, the SS ‘would later become both the elite guard of the Nazi Reich and Hitler’s executive force prepared to carry out all security-related duties, without regard for legal restraint.’

After the appearance sparked widespread backlash, including from prominent Jewish groups, Trudeau spent three days scrambling for an answer before appearing to blame ‘Russian propaganda’ in his apology on Monday.

Speaking the day before Rota resigned, Trudeau told reporters the incident was ‘deeply embarrassing.’ 

Admitting the appearance was a ‘mistake’, Trudeau said: ‘Obviously it’s extremely upsetting that this happened.’

While the prime minister said Rota had ‘acknowledged’ the shameful moment, Trudeau condemned his oversight as he said it was ’embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.’

He also seemed to try and use the moment to rail against anti-Semitism, calling for a ‘push back against Russian propaganda.’ 

He added that Canada would ‘continue our steadfast and unequivocal support for Ukraine as we did last week with announcing further measures to stand with Ukraine in Russia’s illegal war against it.’

His pivot to the Russian war machine came just seconds after he apologized for the ovation, admitting it was especially insulting to ‘Jewish MPs and all members of the Jewish community across the country who are celebrating Yom— commemorating Yom Kippur today.’

The scandal came as Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) addressed the Canadian parliament to bolster his nation’s support in the war with Russia as the conflict heads into the winter months 

Trudeau addressed the scandal with reporters on Monday as he admitted it was ‘deeply embarrassing’, before he used the moment to call for a ‘push back against Russian propaganda’ 

The incident led to a wave of condemnation from Jewish groups in particular, who were left stunned a former Nazi would not only be invited into Canada’s parliament, but was also given a standing ovation.

‘(The incident) has left a stain on our country’s venerable legislature with profound implications both in Canada and globally,’ said the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

‘This incident has compromised all 338 Members of Parliament and has also handed a propaganda victory to Russia, distracting from what was a momentously significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine.

‘It has also caused great pain to Canada’s Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, veterans and other victims of the Nazi regime.’ 

The group also called for an apology to ‘every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis’, which was echoed by Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs which said it was ‘deeply troubled’ by the incident.

CIJA leadership noted Trudeau’s reference to ‘Russian propaganda’ in its rebuke as it added: ‘Canada’s Jewish community stands firmly with Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression… But we can’t stay silent when crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust are whitewashed.’

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