By Milcah Tanimu
Canada’s Parliament Speaker, Anthony Rota, has announced his resignation amid controversy sparked by his tribute to a Ukrainian veteran who served in a Nazi-affiliated military unit during World War II. The incident occurred during a visit to Parliament by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, last week when Rota praised an elderly Ukrainian immigrant from his district, leading to a standing ovation.
Rota faced mounting pressure to step down after it was revealed that the veteran he honored had a history with a Nazi-linked military division.
With deep regret, Rota informed lawmakers of his resignation from the position of Speaker of the House of Commons, acknowledging his grave mistake and the distress it had caused to Jewish communities in Canada and worldwide.
Russia has previously accused the government in Kyiv of aligning with Nazi ideals, despite President Zelensky being Jewish and having lost family members in the Holocaust. The controversy surrounding Rota’s tribute was likely to fuel this narrative.
In the tribute, Rota celebrated Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant from his electoral district, as a hero and a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. However, it was revealed that Hunka had actually served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a notorious Nazi military unit with documented crimes against humanity during the Holocaust, according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group.
The organization described the incident as “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing” and noted that it had compromised all 338 Members of Parliament. It also expressed concern that the incident had handed a propaganda victory to Russia, diverting attention from a significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine.
Several political parties in Canada had called for Rota’s resignation, given the gravity of the situation.