Canada: House Speaker Resigns Amid Row Over Praising Nazi Soldier, Opposition Leader Blames Trudeau

Swarajya Staff

Sep 27, 2023, 11:07 AM | Updated 11:07 AM IST

Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota
Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota

The Speaker of Canadian House of Commons is resigning from his position amid rising pressure on him to step down after he faced criticism for acknowledging a man in the House of Commons who had been a member of a Nazi SS unit during World War II.

In a brief statement to a partially full House on Tuesday afternoon, Rota announced his decision to resign from the post.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” he said.

“The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker. I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of (Ukrainian) President Zelenskyy,” he added, The National Post reported.

Rota acknowledged that his public recognition of the individual had caused pain to various communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland and other nations.

Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian, was honoured by Rota on Friday (23 September) as a hero, receiving a standing ovation from MPs and dignitaries in the House.

Over the weekend, Hunka's past involvement in the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, was publicly revealed. This division was a voluntary unit under the command of the Nazis.

Rota, taking full responsibility for his actions, announced his resignation, effective at the end of the day on Wednesday.

In the meantime, deputy speakers Chris d'Entremont and Alexandra Mendes will oversee the House proceedings.

Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative leader in the House, continued to hold Prime Minister Trudeau accountable for the incident and asked him to personally apologise to the Canadians.

Terming the failure of authorities to properly vet Yaroslav Hunka a “massive act of incompetence,” Poilievre said it was Trudeau’s job to protect Zelenskyy from this embarrassment.

“Canadians are sick and tired of a prime minister who never takes responsibility for the things that happen under his watch. Whether it is the record high inflation rates, or the doubling of housing costs, or the constant international embarrassments, he always finds someone to throw under the bus,” Poilievre asserted in the Canadian Parliament, to a rousing reception from the opposition benches.

“Canada’s reputation is broken,” he said.

“This is by far the biggest hit Canada’s diplomatic reputation has ever taken in its history, and it happened under Justin Trudeau, his watch," Pollievre added.

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