In a major turn of events, Anthony Rota, the speaker of Canada's parliament has tendered his resignation following a controversial decision to invite a Ukrainian Nazi veteran to participate in a special parliamentary session. During the session, he referred to the individual as a "hero," prompting two standing ovations from the assembly.
Rota's resignation was prompted by a meeting with party leaders in Ottawa, where a chorus of calls for his departure had been growing across party lines. The move reflects the gravity of the situation and the mounting pressure on Rota to step down from his role.
“This house is above any of us,” he told lawmakers.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, strongly condemned the situation by deeming it "deeply unacceptable" and an "embarrassment." The government house leader, echoing this sentiment, called upon Anthony Rota to take the "honourable thing" and resign from his position. Meanwhile, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asserting that the government's failure to thoroughly vet and prevent the honoring of a Nazi had "brought shame on Canada."
The controversy unfolded last during a parliamentary session in Canada when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed lawmakers. Following Zelenskiy's speech, Anthony Rota, the Speaker of the House of Commons, specifically recognized 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, whom he had invited to sit in the gallery. Rota hailed Hunka as a "Canadian hero," a sentiment that garnered a raised fist of acknowledgment from President Zelenskiy and a salute from Hunka in the gallery.
However, as the weekend progressed, it came to light that Yaroslav Hunka had a historical affiliation with the Waffen-SS "Galicia" Division, also known as the SS 14th Waffen Division, a volunteer unit operating under Nazi command. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies emphasized that this division had been responsible for heinous acts, including the mass murder of innocent civilians, marked by an unimaginable level of brutality and malice.
Numerous prominent Jewish organizations joined in condemning Hunka's invitation to the parliamentary session. The incident swiftly transformed into a major political embarrassment for the Canadian government.
Rota later said he had “subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision” to invite the war veteran, who lives in Rota’s electoral district. “I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my action.”
Hunka's attendance at the parliamentary session came as a surprise, with the prime minister's office explaining that there was no prior notification because he was a guest of the speaker and attendee lists are not shared in advance. In Canada's parliamentary system, the speaker of the House of Commons is a non-partisan figure elected by all lawmakers and responsible for overseeing parliamentary proceedings.
Prime Minister Trudeau expressed his deep embarrassment over the situation, acknowledging its impact on Canada's parliament and its citizens. However, his party faced additional scrutiny when government house leader Karina Gould called for Speaker Rota to be removed from official parliamentary records, including all recordings of the day's events.
With growing condemnation and speculation on social media, it appeared likely that Rota's resignation was imminent.
Image source: Bloomberg