In what could be interpreted as either gross negligence on behalf of Canada's speaker Anthony Rota, or a huge misunderstanding of the impact on Holocaust survivors, Canada honored Nazi Yaroslav Hunka, during a visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Canada's entire Parliament, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, rose to their feet in a heartfelt standing ovation for Yaroslav Hunka. It's essential to acknowledge that Hunka, a former Ukrainian member of the Waffen SS during Adolf Hitler's reign, was part of a group that played a devastating role in the horrific events of the Holocaust, which unfolded from 1941 to 1945 and resulted in the tragic extermination of countless European Jews.
Adding to the emotional resonance of the moment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a distinguished guest in Parliament, joined in the thunderous applause, underscoring the complexity and significance of this historical gesture.
Rota described Hunka as a “veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his age of 98.”
Yaroslav Hunka, Rota continued, “is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service.” In a powerful display of unity, President Zelensky, Prime Minister Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, leaders of the opposition parties, as well as all the gathered Members of Parliament, Senators, and high-ranking military officials of Canada, simultaneously stood and erupted into a thunderous standing ovation. In response, Yaroslav Hunka rose from his seat, and with tremendous emotion, he raised his fists in the air.
What happened in Canada? Was this a deliberate attempt to gain favor with Zelenskyy with blatant disregard for Canadian Jews, Poles, and Slovak citizens? Or were his war crimes simply overlooked? A simple internet search could have avoided any misunderstanding of Hunka and his past. There is a blog written by Hunka where he fondly describes his time as a Ukrainian member of the Waffen SS during Adolf Hitler's reign.
Both the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B'nai Brith Canada expressed strong condemnation for the honoring of Yaroslav Hunka, considering it deeply unsettling and "beyond outrageous." This sentiment arises from his affiliation with the First Ukrainian Division, also recognized as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, during his military service. Issuing the following statement:
"The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking. At a time of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, it is incredibly disturbing to see Canada's Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others and that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials. There should be no confusion that this unit was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.
"An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation."
The backlash from Jewish communities in Canada and around the world prompted the Speaker to issue the following statement: "In my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so,” Rota said. “I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
What do you think? Was it sheer negligence or a deliberate attack on the citizens and their feelings?
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