Canadian Jewish organizations and social media critics are expressing outrage over the Canadian Parliament’s decision to give a standing ovation to a man who served in a Nazi military unit during an event attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Canadian nonprofit dedicated to Holocaust education, voiced their dismay, stating, “FSWC is appalled that Canada’s Parliament gave a standing ovation to a Ukrainian veteran who served in a Nazi military unit during the Second World War implicated in the mass murder of Jews and others. An apology and explanation is owed.”
Video and photos captured the Canadian Parliament erupting into cheers during Zelenskyy’s visit, as they also honored Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who fought for the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, during the Second World War. This division was associated with the Nazis and their paramilitary arm under the Schutzstaffel organization.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center continued their condemnation, stating, “The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking. At a time of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, it is incredibly disturbing to see Canada’s Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others and that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials.”
Social media users joined in condemning the Canadian House for celebrating Hunka, referring to him as a “literal Nazi” and “monster.” Canadian columnist Joe Warmington called for a “full apology” in an op-ed published in the Toronto Sun.
The controversy also led to discussions about the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany during World War II, with some outlets noting Hunka’s association with Ukrainian independence efforts against Russia.
In response to the backlash, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office issued a statement, indicating that the “Speaker of the House has apologized and accepted full responsibility for issuing the invitation and for the recognition in Parliament.” They affirmed Canada’s commitment to a free Ukraine and their support for President Zelenskyy.
Hunka was reportedly invited by House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, who introduced him as a war hero. Rota’s office also expressed regret for the invitation, stating, “I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to [invite Hunka]. No one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them.”