Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued a formal apology following an incident in which a man who served in a Nazi unit during World War II was honored in the Parliament of Canada. Trudeau expressed deep regret for the “terrible mistake” that he said harmed the memory of Holocaust victims and all those who suffered under the Nazi regime.
Apologies Extended to Multiple Parties: Trudeau offered his sincere apologies in the House of Commons, acknowledging the gravity of the situation. He conveyed his regret, saying, “Paying tribute to this individual, without knowing who he was, was a terrible mistake and a violation of the memory of those who cruelly suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.” Trudeau also extended apologies to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian delegation present during the parliamentary session.
Discovery of WWII Nazi Unit Service: The controversy erupted when it was revealed that Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old man, had received two standing ovations during the parliamentary session last week. Subsequently, Jewish community groups reported that Hunka had served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Nazi military unit during World War II. This revelation sparked demands for an explanation and an apology from the Canadian government.
Impact on Russian Propaganda: Trudeau expressed concern about the incident’s potential to be exploited for Russian propaganda. He stated, “It is extremely troubling to think that this egregious error is being politicized by Russia and its supporters to provide false propaganda about what Ukraine is fighting for.” Russia has labeled the decision to honor Hunka as “outrageous” and has accused Western countries of inadequately educating younger generations about the events of World War II.
Russian Justification and Ukrainian Response: The Russian authorities have used the pretext of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine as a justification for their military actions in the region, a claim strongly contested by Ukraine and its allies, who assert that Russia’s aim is territorial expansion.
Prime Minister’s Office Responds: Trudeau’s office and senior members of the Liberal Party government have maintained that they had no prior knowledge of Hunka’s invitation to Parliament. The prime minister emphasized that the speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, bore sole responsibility for recognizing Hunka.
Damage to Reputation and Call for Action: The incident has caused substantial harm, as expressed by Jagmeet Singh, leader of the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP), who said, “Real damage has been done — real damage to the Jewish community, real damage to the war effort in Ukraine, and real damage to Canada’s reputation.” Singh called for concrete steps to address the situation and its repercussions.
The issue has raised serious questions about protocol and oversight within the Canadian Parliament and remains a topic of discussion among lawmakers and the public.