It has been a rough week in the Canadian parliament, to put it lightly.
Last Friday, the Trudeau Government invited 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, a Ukrainian migrant to Canada, to hear Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Parliament.
Speaker Anthony Rota introduced Hunka as a “Ukrainian-Canadian veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.”
“He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service,” Rota declared. The glowing introduction prompted not one but two standing ovations in the House of Commons.
However, not all was as it seemed.
On Sunday, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) sounded the alarm that Yaroslav Hunka had served with the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS—a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
The FSWC noted that Hunka’s division was “a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others and that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials.”
“An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis,” said the FSWC’s statement, “and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation.”
In fact, the FSWC has been actively seeking for some years to identify and bring to justice members of the Waffen Grenadier Division, thousands of whom migrated, first, to the United Kingdom in 1947, then, by the hundreds, to Canada after 1950 with the full knowledge of the Canadian authorities.
As the dark media clouds began to roll in, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted first for distraction, posting piously on X (formerly Twitter) about Yom Kippur—though users were quick to condemn his hypocrisy in the comments section.
A day of reflection, repentance, and renewal, Yom Kippur marks the end of the Ten Days of Awe that began with Rosh Hashanah. To Jewish communities who are coming together tonight: G’mar Chatima Tova. https://t.co/5dt96JYQmy
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 24, 2023
Soon, Speaker Anthony Rota, a member of Trudeau’s Liberal Party, had issued both a written and verbal apology for the debacle, accepting “full responsibility.”
Then, after what must have been a restless night for many, Karina Gould, a Liberal member of the Trudeau Cabinet, on Monday appealed to her colleagues in Parliament “to make sure we do not politicize this issue.” In her appeal, Gould singled out “those in the Conservative Party of Canada” for rebuke.
It was a rich request, given that a mere 18 months prior, at the height of the Canadian truckers’ Freedom Convoy, Trudeau himself accused Conservative MPs of standing with “people who wave swastikas.”
Worse, in a particularly bizarre rant that went viral at the time, Liberal Party MP Ya’ara Saks smeared the truckers as Nazis by claiming that “honk honk” was a secret code for “Heil Hitler.” In July of this year, MP Saks was appointed Minister of Mental Health and Addictions by Trudeau.
As these attempts from the Trudeau government failed to stem the tide of negative headlines, the Prime Minister fronted up to cameras to call out those whom he apparently saw as the real enemy.
First conceding that Friday’s events were “deeply embarrassing,” then deflecting blame to the Speaker of the House, Trudeau went on to say: “It’s going to be really important that all of us push back against Russian propaganda, Russian disinformation, and continue our steadfast and unequivocal support for Ukraine.”
Exactly which propaganda and disinformation Trudeau was referring to remains a mystery.
NEW – Trudeau: "I think it's going to be really important that all of us push back against Russian propaganda, Russian disinformation."pic.twitter.com/CJQ2UOKP9U
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 25, 2023
Still, the embarrassment was far from over.
Monday afternoon, Karina Gould asked for “unanimous consent” for the Parliament’s standing ovation for the Nazi veteran to be “struck from the appendix of the House of Commons debates” and from “any House multimedia recording.”
Gould was apparently unaware that her request for “digital book burning” carried its own shades of the Third Reich—though commentators such as Viva Frei did not fail to miss the reference. “You know who else liked to burn books, Karina?” Frei quipped on X.
By Tuesday, Speaker Anthony Rota opted to fall on his sword, announcing his resignation, effective at the end of the sitting day on Wednesday.
Speaker Anthony Rota RESIGNS following Nazi veteran debacle:
"I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelensky." pic.twitter.com/vXRloA4y7j
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) September 26, 2023
Also on Tuesday, news broke that Poland’s Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek had initiated efforts to extradite Yaroslav Hunka to Poland so that he might be investigated for possible war crimes against Polish nationals.
As the fallout for the Trudeau government continues, many questions remain.
Who vetted Yaroslav Hunka and allowed him into Parliament?
Did Anthony Rota resign to save face for other Liberal Party culprits?
Why didn’t a single member of the House of Commons hesitate to praise a man who fought against Canada’s Russian allies during the Second World War? Are all of Canada’s politicians historically illiterate?
Why, today, are conservatives so readily maligned as Nazis that we have to invent new labels like “literal Nazi” or “actual Nazi” to describe the real thing?
Why is a Prime Minister who has fashioned his entire brand around identity politics so often caught out transgressing his own alleged principles?
And the question likely on Trudeau’s mind: When will the embarrassment end?