Canada's Trudeau apologizes after ex-Nazi mistakenly honoured

The Canadian prime minister said inviting the Ukrainian World War II veteran, who turned out to have fought alongside the Nazis, was an "embarrassing" mistake

Justin Trudeau said the mistake was "deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people" (photo: DW)
Justin Trudeau said the mistake was "deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people" (photo: DW)


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Wednesday, 27 September after lawmakers publicly celebrated a man who fought alongside the Nazis during an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week.

Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian World War II veteran, received two standing ovations.

However, it emerged later that Hunka had served in the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, which the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center describes as "a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well-documented."

"I would like to present unreserved apologies for what took place on Friday and to President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian delegation for the position they were put in, for all of us who were present," Trudeau said.

"To have unknowingly recognized this individual was a terrible mistake and a violation of the memory of those who suffered grievously at the hands of the Nazi regime."

Canadian leaders apologize to Jewish community

Trudeau said the speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, who resigned Tuesday, was "solely responsible" for the invitation and recognition, but added it was a mistake that has "deeply embarrassed" the parliament and Canada.

"All of us who were in the House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context," Trudeau added.

"It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, and was deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people."

Rota had publicly lauded Hunka during the session, calling him a war hero.

In a separate apology earlier in the week, Rota said the public recognition of Hunka "has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world."

Trudeau slams Russia's response

Trudeau said he was also sorry about the predicament that the incident had put Zelenskyy in.

Russia, which has sought to justify its invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to "denazify" the country, seized on the opportunity to condemn Canada and its "sloppy attitude" towards remembering the Nazi regime.

"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," Trudeau said.

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Published: 28 Sep 2023, 12:02 PM