September 26, 2023
Canadas House speaker steps down after dubbing Nazi fighter a hero
Canada House Speaker Anthony Rota stepped down Tuesday amid fallout after calling a Ukrainian who fought with the Nazis during World War II a “hero” during a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week. “It is with a heavy heart that I informed the House of Commons of my resignation as Speaker,” Rota wrote Tuesday in a , formerly known as Twitter. “It has been my greatest honor as a parliamentarian to serve as Speaker in the 43rd and 44th Parliaments.” After Zelensky delivered an address to the House of Commons on Friday, Rota introduced Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old immigrant from Ukraine, as a war hero for the First Ukrainian Division, prompting a standing ovation from Canadian lawmakers. Zelensky later raised his first in acknowledgement, as Rota said Hunka is a “Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service.” In a statement shared with The Hill on Tuesday, Rota apologized for the second time, writing, “I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament by President Zelensky.” “That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as to survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland and other nations. I am deeply sorry,” he continued. Rota said his resignation will take effect at the end of Wednesday to allow for the election of a new speaker. Until then, the deputy speakers will chair House proceedings, Rota said. In a Monday, Rota said Parliament members and the Ukraine delegation did not know about his plan to recognize Hunka. Rota’s resignation comes after calls from all of his main opposition parties to step down, according . Government House Leader Karina Gould said lawmakers lost confidence in Rota. “This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to all of Parliament and indeed all Canadians. The speaker did the honorable thing in resigning,” Government Liberal House leader Karina Gould said, per The AP. Gould earlier said she had no information about Rota’s invitation or on Hunka himself. “As a descendant of Jewish Holocaust survivors, I ask all parliamentarians to stop politicizing a troubling situation,” Gould Rota’s recognition of Hunka received backlash from Jewish groups in Canada, including the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a nonprofit Human Rights organization focused on Holocaust education and antisemitism programs, which demanded an apology. According to the nonprofit, Hunka was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, or the SS 14th Wafer Division, a voluntary unit under Nazi command that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg trials, which tried Nazis for genocidal war crimes. Calling Rota’s actions “shocking” and “incredibly disturbing,” the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said the unit was “responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.” Zelensky’s marked his first since Russia invaded Ukraine 19 months ago, as he pushes for more Western support. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly in Ukraine as “neo-Nazis,” though Zelensky is Jewish.
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