The presence of a former Ukrainian soldier who fought in a Nazi unit at President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech embarrassed the Trudeau government.
The 98-year-old veteran, Yaroslav Hunk, received a warm ovation from elected officials and senators in the Canadian Parliament when the Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, mentioned his presence in the stands.
“He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero and we thank him for his service,” said President Rota, introducing this citizen from his northern Ontario riding. The former soldier stood up, and the room applauded him, including President Zelensky, who raised his fist in his direction.
It appears that during World War II the man was a member of the 14e division of the Waffen-SS, created by the Nazi regime. The event went unnoticed until Jewish organizations sounded the alarm this Sunday.
“The Quebec and Canadian Jewish communities strongly support Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression. But we cannot remain silent when the crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust are whitewashed,” protested the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs in X.
“Horrible,” wrote the organization Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies on the same social network. At B’Nai Brith, CEO Michael Mostyn expressed a similar sentiment, arguing that “we cannot allow rewriting (whitening) In history “.
President Rota apologized
President Rota quickly expressed regret, assuring that he “regrets (his) decision to present this person”, due to “new information” brought to his attention since Friday’s speech.
“I especially want to offer my sincerest apologies to Jewish communities across Canada and around the world. I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said in a statement released Sunday.
The Liberal MP clarified that “no one”, among his parliamentary colleagues or the Ukrainian delegation, “knew” his intentions or his words before my speech”, and that he was “the only responsible of this initiative.
This version of events was confirmed by Prime Minister Trudeau’s office, which according to the Speaker of the House did “the right thing” by apologizing and accepting “full responsibility for sending the invitation and for recognition within Parliament.
The opposition parties were shocked
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre blamed Justin Trudeau and his protocol department, while taking care to distance himself from the ovation the Ukrainian-born veteran received on Friday.
“This is a serious error of judgment on the part of Justin Trudeau, whose protocol office is responsible for organizing and approving all visitors and programs for state visits of this type,” wrote X the leader of the official opposition.
To this, the office of Justin Trudeau responded that “Parliament and the office of the Speaker of the House are independent of the Prime Minister and the Office of the Prime Minister”, we read in the statement relayed on social networks by the spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt .
However, new Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who also distanced himself from the tribute given to Yaroslav Hunk, demanded accountability. “New Democrats will raise their concerns directly with the Liberal government to understand how this happened,” he told X.
This event cast a shadow on a day that, all in all, was very good for Justin Trudeau, whose week was marked by the eruption of a diplomatic crisis between Canada and India.