- Controversial war in Canada over Parliament's tribute to Ukrainian Nazi war veteran
The speaker of the Parliament of Canada resigned on Tuesday after the scandal caused by his tribute to a Ukrainian veteran, who apparently fought with the Nazis in World War II, during the recent visit to the country of Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski.
"It is with much regret that I rise to inform members of my resignation as speaker of the House of Commons," Anthony Rota told fellow MPs.
"I accept full responsibility for my actions," he continued, assuring that his resignation will be effective late Wednesday.
Last Friday, during Zelensky's visit, Rota paid tribute to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant.
He hailed Hunka as "a Ukrainian-Canadian World War II war veteran who fought for Ukraine's independence against the Russians" and described him as "a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero," drawing a standing ovation from lawmakers.
But Hunka actually served in the SS's 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, "a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well documented," according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), an organization dedicated to education programs about those facts and anti-Semitism.
The Jewish advocacy group called the incident "shocking" and "incredibly disturbing."
The parliamentary recognition of Hunka "caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as Nazi survivors in Poland, among other nations," Rota added in his message.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly on Tuesday joined calls for the lawmaker's resignation: "What happened on Friday is completely unacceptable."
"It's an embarrassment to the House and to Canadians, and I think the president should listen to the members of the House and resign," he told reporters in Parliament.
First elected in 2004 under the Liberal banner, Rota, 62, was re-elected five times. Since 2019, he was Speaker of the House, a key position in the Canadian parliamentary system, above parties.
However, amid the scandal, several political movements had also urged Rota to resign.
The Liberal MP apologised on Sunday saying he had "subsequently become aware of further information" that made him regret his comments about Hunka.
"This initiative was entirely mine... In particular, I want to sincerely apologize to the Jewish communities in Canada and around the world," he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday called Rota's remarks shameful.
Leading opposition Conservatives criticized Trudeau's government for failing to properly investigate Hunka, despite claiming it had no prior knowledge he had been invited to the event.
Zelenskiy's visit to Canada was the third leg of a tour aimed at bolstering international support, after heading to the United Nations and visiting U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington.
For the FSWC, this incident "compromised the integrity of the 338 members of Parliament and also offered a propaganda victory to Russia."
Russia accuses the Ukrainian leadership of being "neo-Nazis" and claims, as justification for the war, the need to "de-Nanizify" its neighbor.
The Canadian episode risks further fueling this rhetoric: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also spoke of "scandal," Russian media reported.
On Tuesday night, Poland's education minister announced it had commissioned an investigation into whether the Ukrainian veteran who fought with the Nazis had committed crimes in Poland, with a view to his possible extradition.
Canada is home to the world's second-largest Ukrainian diaspora and Zelenskiy, in his speech to parliament, thanked Kiev for its support since Russian troops invaded Ukraine's borders in February 2022.
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