The speaker of Canada's House of Commons announced Tuesday his resignation after the scandal caused by the tribute in parliament to a Ukrainian veteran who fought with the Nazis during the Second World War, on the occasion of the visit of Volodymyr Zelensky.
"It is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform members of my resignation as Speaker of the House of Commons," Rota told parliament, speaking of "his deep regret for his mistake." The latter had been under pressure since last weekend as opposition parties demanded his resignation - as did the tenors of his own clan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals. The latter had spoken Monday of a tribute "unacceptable" and "deeply embarrassing".
Hunka presented as a "Ukrainian hero"
During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to Ottawa on Friday, Anthony Rota made Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran accused of fighting in the SS, applaud in the precincts of parliament. He had presented this man as a "Ukrainian hero", coming from his electoral district. MPs from all parties, Justin Trudeau, his government and Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jew, rose to applaud Yaroslav Hunka, ignoring the details of his past.
According to the advocacy group for the Jewish community in Canada, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), Anthony Hunka served in the SS's 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well documented.
"This gesture of public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada ... and Holocaust survivors in Poland. I accept full responsibility for my actions," he added.
For the opposition, it is a "propaganda victory for Russia"
Anthony Rota had apologized Sunday a first time for this invitation, explaining "to be the only responsible for this initiative". But his apology was not enough in the face of the controversy that threatened to fall on the Canadian Prime Minister. On Tuesday, many members of the government had gone to the front: Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had considered that Anthony Rota had no choice and had to resign, speaking of "shame for Canadians".
For the Conservative Party, Canada's main opposition force and rising in the polls, the Trudeau government is responsible for not checking Yaroslav Hunka's background before paying tribute to him. For the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this incident "compromised the integrity of all 338 members of parliament and also offered a propaganda victory to Russia." Moscow has often justified its intervention in Ukraine since February 2022 by explaining that it must fight the "neo-Nazism" of the Zelensky government.