Jewish advocacy organizations have strongly criticized the Canadian parliament for applauding Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran who fought in the Nazi Waffen SS during World War II. Hunka was invited to attend parliament as a “Ukrainian and Canadian hero”, during a visit by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky last week.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), an organization dedicated to promoting Holocaust education and fighting anti-Semitism, expressed their dismay at the celebration of a veteran who had served in a Nazi unit responsible for the mass murder of Jews and others. The FSWC demanded an apology to Holocaust survivors and veterans who fought against the Nazis, and called for an explanation as to how Hunka was allowed into the Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House, Anthony Rota.
Similarly, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which represents Jewish federations across Canada, voiced their support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia but emphasized that they cannot remain silent when crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust are whitewashed.
Dmitry Trapirov, chairman of an Israeli anti-fascist movement, condemned the actions of the Canadian parliament, stating that his organization will demand a public statement from the Israeli ambassador to Ottawa.
Trapirov further criticized the West, claiming that they have forgotten the atrocities of fascism and Nazism and now easily flirt with these ideologies. He expressed hope that the authorities will condemn the act, emphasizing that the Jewish people have not forgotten the crimes committed against them.
Meanwhile, Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota, who extended the invitation to Hunka, has apologized and expressed regret for his decision. He acknowledged the concerns raised by the Jewish advocacy organizations and accepted responsibility for the oversight.
The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clarified that no advance notice was provided to either President Zelensky’s delegation or the Canadian leader regarding Hunka’s invitation. They reiterated their commitment to addressing the concerns and ensuring that such incidents do not occur again in the future.
The controversy surrounding the celebration of an individual with a Nazi background has sparked widespread discussion about historical accountability and the need to remember and confront the atrocities committed during World War II. Organizations and individuals continue to advocate for Holocaust education and the recognition of the efforts made by veterans who fought against the Nazis.