Canadian House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota resigned on Tuesday in the wake of widespread criticism for his decision to invite a Nazi veteran to an event with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
On Monday, Rota issued an apology for extending an invitation to 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to attend Zelensky’s address to Canadian lawmakers on Friday but initially refused to step down from his position.
Despite the initial support for Hunka from lawmakers of all political parties, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the calls for Rota’s resignation intensified over the weekend, as the incident received global condemnation, particularly from the governments of Russia and Poland.
Rota eventually announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon, stating that he would vacate his position at the end of Wednesday’s session.
Critics, notably politicians from the opposition New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois parties, were the most vocal in demanding Rota’s resignation. New Democrats leader Peter Julian referred to the invitation as “an inexcusable mistake that damages the reputation of the entire House.”
Although Trudeau, who leads Rota’s Liberal Party, did not explicitly call for the speaker’s resignation, he characterized the ceremony as “highly embarrassing for the House and Canada.”
During the event, Rota praised Hunka as a “Ukrainian hero” and a “Canadian hero” who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. However, Rota did not acknowledge that Hunka had served in Hitler’s elite Waffen SS.
The Associated Press identified Hunka as a member of the First Ukrainian Division, a unit formed by the Nazis from Ukrainian volunteers in 1943. This division, also known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, is notorious for its involvement in atrocities against Jews and Poles during its Eastern Front campaign.