NDP House leader Peter Julian is calling on House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to step down after he invited a man who fought for the Nazis to attend a speech by the Ukrainian president.
“Unfortunately, I believe a sacred trust has been broken,” NDP House leader Peter Julian says as he calls on House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to resign over his honouring, during President Zelenskyy’s visit, of a Ukrainian who fought in a WWII Nazi unit.#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/Mb7fusNaTO— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) September 25, 2023
Rota issued a written apology Sunday and repeated it in the House Monday morning. He said he alone was responsible for inviting and recognizing Yaroslav Hunka last Friday, who fought for the First Ukrainian Division during the Second World War.
"I am deeply sorry that I have offended many with my gesture and remarks," said Rota.
"No one — not even anyone among you, fellow parliamentarians, or from the Ukrainian delegation — was privy to my intention or my remarks prior to their delivery."
Rota's recognition of Hunka was met Friday with a standing ovation from MPs.
On Monday morning, government House leader Karina Gould said his decision to invite the man was "deeply embarrassing" and called on MPs to work together to strike the recognition from the record.
She said that as a Canadian of Jewish origin and a descendent of Holocaust survivors, she felt "particularly hurt" by the situation.
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. https://t.co/sZBQS7gWwZ— Karina Gould (@karinagould) September 24, 2023
The First Ukrainian Division was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies issued a statement Sunday saying the division "was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable."
Julian told the House that Rota's was an "unforgivable" error that brought disrepute to the House of Commons.
"Unfortunately, I believe a sacred trust has been broken," he told the Speaker. "It’s for that reason, for the good of the institution of the House of Commons, that I say sadly I don’t believe you can continue in this role. Regrettably, I must respectfully ask that you step aside."
Gould repeatedly asserted on Monday that neither the government of Canada nor the Ukrainian delegation had any knowledge that the 98-year-old Hunka had been invited to attend an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
But Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer is still placing the blame with the Prime Minister's Office, saying the government had a responsibility to vet attendees of such a high-profile event for security reasons.
He noted a "straightforward Google search" would have shown the division in which Hunka served during the war.
"If that basic level of vetting is not done by the government, that raises serious concerns. What kind of message does that send to our allies all over the world?"