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Speaker resigns after inviting Nazi to attend Canadian lawmaker session

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.

Anadolu Agency & AFP AMERICAS
Published September 26,2023
Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota during Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2023. (REUTERS Photo)

The speaker who invited a former Nazi SS veteran to attend a session of the Canadian parliament resigned Tuesday under pressure from the government and opposition members of parliament.

Anthony Rota's resignation takes effect Wednesday.

He invited Yaroslav Hunka, 98, to attend the House of Commons on Friday, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to speak.

Rota, who said he did not know Hunka was a Nazi, introduced him as a "Ukrainian hero" and a "Canadian hero." Hunka was given a standing ovation by lawmakers.

Monday, when Hunka's past became known, Rota apologized for his error but the scandal outraged Canadians and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the blunder "deeply embarrassing."

"It's extremely upsetting that this happened. The Speaker has acknowledged his mistake and has apologized," said Trudeau. "But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians."

To make matters worse, Trudeau said the Russians may use the blunder for propaganda purposes as Russian President Vladimir Putin used ridding Ukraine of Nazis as the excuse for his "special military operation."

Rota had apologized to MPs on Monday and expressed regrets. But calls for him to resign soon became a cacophony, echoed by opposition party leaders and on Tuesday after Trudeau spoke to reporters, senior members of his Cabinet added their voices.

Also Tuesday, the Polish education minister said he had "taken steps" to have Hunka, a resident of Ontario, extradited.