A Russian diplomat has come forward to express unease and disappointment over the surprising honoring of a Waffen-SS veteran in the Canadian House of Commons. Dmitry Polyansky, who serves as Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN, has called attention to Canada’s history of sheltering Nazi war criminals following World War II, and the subsequent lobbying by their descendants to whitewash the legacies of the wartime atrocities. The incident in point involves the September honoring of 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian man Yaroslav Hunka, who is a member of the SS Galicia Division.
Polyansky pointed out that many Nazi criminals who emigrated to Canada after World War II have had their children and grandchildren born in the country, entangling the Canadian government in complex situations such as Hunka’s recognition in the parliament. The Waffen-SS veteran was given a standing ovation in the Canadian parliament with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in attendance. The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, to which Hunka belonged, was implicated in committing atrocities against Jews and Poles during the war.
The introduction of Hunka as a “hero” who fought “for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” during World War II caused a scandal, and following public backlash, Canada’s House Speaker Anthony Rota, who invited Hunka to the event, took full responsibility and resigned. Trudeau, too, offered “unreserved apologies” for applauding the Nazi veteran after being faced with strong criticism from Jewish organizations.
In a bizarre twist in the whole saga, Hunka, who was charged in absentia with genocide by Russia’s Investigative Committee, has been put on the country’s official wanted list, with the Russian Interior Ministry placing him on the wanted database. The charge pertains to an incident in 1944, when Hunka and his fellow combatants reportedly killed at least 500 civilians, according to archive documents.
The incident has raised eyebrows and led to a broader reflection on what some see as a trend of rising neo-Nazi and nationalist tenor in Canada. Polyansky voiced concern saying, “Neo-Nazi ideology or nationalist ideology, unfortunately, has a very strong influence in Canada. I think this is obvious.” He added that the Canadian government is a somewhat a “hostage” to the situation.
Indeed, the concerns about the rise in neo-Nazi ideology have not been widely mentioned or alluded to in the media reports. As it appears, there is lack of global attention on this alarming trend in Canada, which calls for an extensive deliberation in international forums and summits. As the incident is met with serious criticisms and negative publicity, the stance of the Canadian government and its citizens is observed with keen interest by the international community.