Canada parliament speaker Anthony Rota resigns after tribute to Nazi-linked veteran

The speaker of Canada’s parliament resigned on Tuesday, days after he singled out a Ukrainian veteran who apparently fought for the Nazis during World War II for a standing ovation during a visit by Ukraine’s leader.

“It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons,” Anthony Rota told lawmakers from the parliamentary floor, expressing his “profound regret for my error”.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Rota continued, saying his resignation would be effective by the end of Wednesday.

Rota had been facing growing pressure to step down after the incident on Friday, during a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to parliament.

Yaroslav Hunka (right) waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Canada’s House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday. Photo: Canadian Press via AP

At the time Rota paid homage to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who was also visiting parliament and who is from Rota’s electoral district.

He hailed Hunka as “a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” and “a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero”, prompting a standing ovation from members.

But Hunka actually served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, “a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented,” according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly joined a chorus of people calling on the speaker to resign.

Nazi camp secretary, 97, sentenced for complicity in murder of thousands

“What happened on Friday is completely unacceptable,” she told reporters at parliament.

“It as an embarrassment to the House and to Canadians, and I think the speaker should listen to members of the House and step down.”

Several political parties in Canada had also urged Rota to step down.

Rota, a Liberal MP, apologised on Sunday, saying that he had “subsequently become aware of more information” which caused him to regret his remarks about Hunka.

(From left) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shakes hands with Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota in Ottawa on Friday. Photo: AFP

“This initiative was entirely my own … I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” he said.

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Rota’s remarks shameful.

The main opposition Conservatives slammed the Trudeau administration for failing to properly vet Hunka, despite claims it had no advance notice he had been invited to the event.

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