Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized on behalf of Canada’s parliament on Wednesday, referring to last week’s “deeply shameful” incident in which the chamber applauded a Ukrainian veteran who fought for a Nazi military unit during the Second World War.
“This was a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada. “All of us in this House on Friday deeply regret that we stood and applauded, even though we did so without knowing the context,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Trudeau also acknowledged the diplomatic damage caused to the visiting Ukrainian delegation in attendance that day, which included Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I also want to reiterate how deeply Canada regrets the situation it put President Zelensky and the Ukrainian delegation in. It is extremely worrying to think that Russia and its supporters are politicizing this egregious mistake to provide false propaganda about what Ukraine is all about. fighting for it,” he stated.
On Friday, following a speech by Zelensky, House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota praised veteran Yaroslav Hunka as a Ukrainian-Canadian war hero who “fought for Ukrainian independence against Russian aggressors back then and continues to support the troops today.”
Hunka, 98, received a long ovation.
But in the days since, Jewish and human rights organizations have said that Hunka served in a Nazi military unit known as the 14th SS Waffen Grenadier Division.
The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division was part of the Nazi SS organization declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, which determined that the Nazi group had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada in a statement condemned the Ukrainian volunteers who served in the unit as “ultranationalist ideologues” who “dreamed of an ethnically homogeneous Ukrainian state and supported the idea of ethnic cleansing.”
Rota resigned from his position amid the fallout, and Poland’s Education Minister published a letter saying he is taking steps toward Hunka’s possible extradition.