Scandal after tribute to an ex-Nazi soldier: Trudeau presents his “most sincere apologies”

Speaking of Canada's "deep embarrassment", Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented his "deepest apologies" on Wednesday for the tribute paid in Parliament, during Volodymyr Zelensky's visit, to a Ukrainian veteran who fought with the Nazis

Scandal after tribute to an ex-Nazi soldier: Trudeau presents his “most sincere apologies”

Speaking of Canada's "deep embarrassment", Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented his "deepest apologies" on Wednesday for the tribute paid in Parliament, during Volodymyr Zelensky's visit, to a Ukrainian veteran who fought with the Nazis .

Justin Trudeau apologized to all MPs "for the situation in which President Zelensky and the Ukrainian delegation were placed."

On Friday, MPs from all parties, Justin Trudeau, his government and Volodymyr Zelensky, of Jewish faith, stood up to applaud Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran accused of having fought in the SS, ignoring the details of his pass.

He notably described this tribute as a “terrible mistake” and a “violation of the memory of those who cruelly suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime”.

The Prime Minister also indicated that Ottawa had already contacted kyiv and President Zelensky to apologize.

Ottawa has been under pressure for several days in this affair described as "the greatest diplomatic embarrassment" in the country's history by the leader of the conservative opposition, Pierre Poilievre.

The Prime Minister, however, recalled that "the only person responsible" was the Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, who "accepted responsibility" and submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

It was the latter who had Mr. Hunka applauded, presenting him as a “Ukrainian hero”, coming from his electoral constituency.

According to the advocacy group for the Jewish community in Canada, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), Mr. Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Nazi military unit whose crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are well documented.

“It is disturbing to think that this blatant error is being politicized by Russia and its supporters in order to spread false propaganda,” the Prime Minister also underlined.

Russia in fact accuses the Ukrainian leaders of being "neo-Nazis" and puts forward, as justification for the war, the need to "denazify" its neighbor.

The Canadian episode therefore risks further fueling this rhetoric: the Russian ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, also spoke of a "scandalous commemoration", asking the Canadian Prime Minister on Tuesday to also apologize to the Russia for the "multiple war crimes" committed by this SS brigade against the Russian people.

In Poland, the government has launched an investigation to verify whether this Ukrainian veteran had not committed crimes on its territory, with a view to his possible extradition.

Canada has the second largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world after Russia, with some 1.4 million people of Ukrainian origin. This was the Ukrainian president's first official visit to Canadian soil since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

09/27/2023 22:31:12 -         Ottawa (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP