OTTAWA Reuters : A few days after openly praising a former Nazi soldier in Parliament, the speaker of Canada’s House of Commons’ lower chamber announced on Tuesday that he would step down. Russia claimed that this episode helped to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine.
When he invited 98-year-old ex-soldier Yaroslav Hunka to last Friday’s House session commemorating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Anthony Rota admitted to lawmakers that he had erred. Rota praised Hunka as a hero in front of the people.
After it was revealed that Hunka, who received two standing ovations from MPs, had served in one of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS regiments during World War Two, the speaker’s position quickly became unsustainable. The event was deemed outrageous in Russia.
The Jewish community in Canada and across the world, among others, have suffered because of such public acknowledgment. Rota, a member of the governing Liberal party, said he accepted full responsibility for his conduct and will quit on Wednesday. A deputy speaker will preside during the interim.
The incident supported the narrative advanced by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he put his troops into Ukraine last year in order to “demilitarize and denazify” the nation, a claim denied by Kyiv and its Western allies.
Zelenskiy’s visit was marred by the controversy, and during his speech he praised Canada for the billions of dollars in aid and weaponry it had given Russia since their invasion in February 2022.
Prior to that, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly urged Rota to step down, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged him to consider his options.
Rota claimed sole responsibility for the incident, despite opposition parties blaming Trudeau’s Liberal administration for what they called failures. Hunka resides in the legislative district of Rota.