Home NEWS International News Justin Trudeau apologises after Nazi veteran honoured in parliament

Justin Trudeau apologises after Nazi veteran honoured in parliament

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologised on behalf of Canada after a Ukrainian man who fought for a Nazi unit was unwittingly applauded in parliament.

“This is a mistake that deeply embarrassed parliament and Canada,” Mr Trudeau said on Wednesday.

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Speaker Anthony Rota, who has assumed responsibility for inviting Yaroslav Hunka, 98, resigned on Tuesday.

The incident has drawn global condemnation.

Mr Trudeau also apologised directly to Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky, who was visiting Canada and present in parliament, saying: “Canada is deeply sorry.”

The Ukrainian leader was among those pictured applauding Mr Hunka, an image that has been exploited in Russian propaganda.

“All of us who were in this House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped even though we did so unaware of the context,” Mr Trudeau said. “It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.”

He said what happened was “deeply, deeply painful” to Jewish people and the many millions who were targeted by the Nazi genocide.

Mr Hunka, who fought with a Nazi unit in World War Two, got a standing ovation and was praised as a Ukrainian and Canadian “hero”.

He served in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command.

Division members are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, although the unit has not been found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal.

Mr Rota has said he was not aware of Mr Hunka’s Nazi ties and made a mistake in inviting him to parliament.

“The Speaker was solely responsible for the invitation and recognition of this man, and has wholly accepted that responsibility and stepped down,” Mr Trudeau said.

But neither the prime minister’s comments nor the speaker’s resignation have slowed criticism from Canada’s opposition leader, the Conservative Party’s Pierre Poilievre.

“There’s always someone else to blame when it comes to Justin Trudeau. But, here’s the reality: responsibility and power go together,” he said.

“If he wants the power, he has to take the responsibility and come to the floor of the House of Commons today and apologise.”

Mr Poilievre called the incident the “biggest single diplomatic embarrassment” in Canada’s history.

Canadian Jewish organisations welcomed Mr Rota’s decision to step down, but the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies has said “questions remain as to how this debacle occurred”.

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