Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized on behalf of Canada after a Nazi veteran was invited to parliament and applauded during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky.
Trudeau on Wednesday was quoted saying, “This is a mistake that deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada.”
Reuters reported that Speaker Anthony Rota, who has assumed responsibility for inviting Yaroslav Hunka resigned on Tuesday.
Trudeau said, “All of us who were in this House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped even though we did so unaware of the context.
“It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.”
He said honouring former Nazi soldier Yaroslav Hunka was “deeply, deeply painful” to Jewish people and the many millions who were targeted by the Nazi genocide.
Yaroslav Hunka, a man who fought for a Nazi unit, got a standing ovation and praised as a Ukrainian and Canadian “hero” during a Friday visit by President Zelensky.
During World War Two, Mr Hunka served in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command.
Division members are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, although the unit has not been found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal.
Trudeau insisted that the House of Commons applauded “unaware of the context”.
He also apologized to Mr Zelensky saying “Canada is deeply sorry”. Mr Zelensky was pictured applauding Mr Hunka, an image that has been exploited by Russian propagandists.
Rota said he was not aware of Hunka’s Nazi ties and made a mistake in inviting him.
“The Speaker was solely responsible for the invitation and recognition of this man, and has wholly accepted that responsibility and stepped down,” Trudeau said.
But the prime minister’s comments or the speaker’s resignation have not slowed criticism from Canada’s opposition leader, the Conservative Party’s Pierre Poilievre.
Poilievre said, “There’s always someone else to blame when it comes to Justin Trudeau. But, here’s the reality: responsibility and power go together.
“If he wants the power, he has to take the responsibility and come to the floor of the House of Commons today and apologise.”
Poilievre called the incident the “biggest single diplomatic embarrassment” in Canada’s history.
Canadian Jewish organisations welcomed Rota’s decision to step down, but Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies has said “questions remain as to how this debacle occurred”.