Yaroslav Hunka was a member of the 1st Galician division, a unit of Adolf Hitler’s war machine
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized on behalf of Canada’s Parliament after a man who fought in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces was included in an event last week honoring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“This was a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada. All of us who were in this House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped even though we did so unaware of the context,” Trudeau said in a brief statement to reporters.
“It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust,” he said, adding the celebration of ex-soldier Yaroslav Hunka was “deeply, deeply painful” to Jewish people, Poles, Roma, the LGBT community and other racialized people in particular — some of the groups that were targeted by the Nazi regime in the Second World War.
Trudeau also said that “Canada is deeply sorry” for involving Zelenskyy, who was pictured applauding Hunka — an image that has been exploited by Russian propagandists.
Canada has sent an apology to Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian delegation through diplomatic channels, Trudeau added.
Liberal caucus sources have told CBC News that Trudeau told MPs Wednesday they should avoid speaking to the press about Hunka’s invitation and the subsequent fallout, and that the media frenzy would die down if they stayed tight-lipped.
Trudeau’s remarks come after Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said inviting Hunka to attend Zelenskyy’s historic address to Parliament is the “biggest single diplomatic embarrassment” in the country’s history.
Poilievre is blaming Trudeau for the mishap, despite outgoing Speaker Anthony Rota’s assertion that he alone was responsible for inviting Hunka.
Rota called the Ukrainian veteran a “Canadian hero” in the Commons and prompted a standing ovation.
Hunka was part of the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division — a voluntary unit that was part of Hitler’s forces.
Speaking to reporters before a Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, Poilievre said Trudeau was responsible for making Zelenskyy’s visit to Canada a success — and Hunka’s inclusion in the event has sullied Canada’s reputation on the global stage.
“Every single person ought to have been vetted for their diplomatic and security sensitivities if the prime minister and his massive apparatus were doing their jobs,” Poilievre said.
In question period, Poilievre again hammered Trudeau over the incident, saying it’s not enough for the prime minister to apologize on behalf of Canada or Parliament. He said Trudeau should wear this personally.
“This prime minister allowed for a monumental, unprecedented and global shame to unfold in this chamber,” Poilievre said. “Will he take personal responsibility for this shame and personally apologize on behalf of himself?”