Justin Trudeau has spoken out after facing condemnation for honoring Yaroslav Hunka — a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran who fought with Germany against the Soviet Union in World War II — in a warm reception in Canada’s House of Commons.
“Obviously it’s extremely upsetting that this happened… this is something that is deeply embarrassing for the parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians,” Trudeau said. “Jewish MPs and all members of the Jewish community are commemorating Yom Kippur today.”
Trudeau’s remarks were reported by CTV News reporter Judy Trinh.
Anthony Rota, Canada’s House speaker, had invited and hosted Hunka in Parliament, praising him for fighting for Ukrainian independence and supporting the troops today. Following public and Jewish community backlash, Rota apologized for inviting Hunka.
“We are deeply troubled & disturbed that a Ukrainian veteran of the infamous 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Nazi SS — which actively participated in the genocide of Jews — was celebrated with a standing ovation in the Canadian Parliament,” the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed their dismay on social media.
Peter Julian, House leader for the New Democratic Party, called on Rota to resign for his “unforgivable error.”
“Regrettably, I must respectfully ask that you step aside,” Julian said. Despite the controversy, Trudeau did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hunka was born in the Second Polish Republic in 1925, which was annexed by the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. As an older teenager, Hunka volunteered to fight in the German army as part of the SS Galizien against the Communist Soviet Union, but he fled to Canada after the Axis powers were defeated in the war. He is an outspoken critic of Russian irredentism and of the recent and ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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