Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday elected Greg Fergus as Speaker of the House of Commons, becoming the first black man in his country's history to hold a post vacated by the resignation of Anthony Rotta after honoring a veteran who later turned out to be a Nazi security officer.
Members of the 338-seat council voted for Fergus in a secret ballot.
Addressing the House of Commons after his election to head the institution, the Liberal MP said it was a "great honour" to hold the job.
Fergus' job as Speaker of the House of Commons is to conduct debates and enforce the rules while maintaining his impartiality and voting only in the event of a tie.
Following tradition, Fergus was accompanied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leader Pierre Boléifer, on his way to the speaker's chair to take up his new position.
Trudeau warmly congratulated Fergus on his new position, noting that he is the first black Canadian to become president of the House.
Fergus is an inspiration to all Canadians, especially younger generations who want to engage in politics, the prime minister added.
The House of Commons said in a statement that its new speaker is "very involved in the black community," recalling that he was first elected MP in 2015 and founded and co-chaired the Black Parliamentarians Caucus for six years.
Former House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rotta admitted his mistake about honoring the Nazi veteran (Reuters)
Fergus was elected a week after his predecessor, Anthony Rutta, resigned after he sparked controversy by honouring a Ukrainian veteran during President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's visit to Canada.
The honored veteran, a 98-year-old named Jaroslav Honka, was later found to have been apparently a member of the Nazi SS.
Lawmakers from all parties, along with Trudeau, members of his cabinet and Ukraine's president, stood to salute Honka, who the Speaker of the House of Commons said was "a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran from World War II who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and is considered a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero."
But the Association for the Defense of the Jewish Community of Canada quickly declared that the honor "ignores Honka's service in the 14th Waffen-Grenadier Division of the Special Security Forces, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are widely documented."
Trudeau then offered his "sincere apologies" for the "grave mistake" that caused "deep embarrassment to Canada."
Ruta apologized for the incident and said in a statement, "I offer my sincere apologies to Jewish communities across Canada and around the world," adding, "I am solely responsible for this initiative and take full responsibility for it."