The blowback from Nazigate continues as Opposition parties intensify their calls for an investigation into the parliamentary tribute of a former Waffen SS officer.
After a failed attempt to scrub the House celebration of Yaroslav Hunka, 98, during a visit to Parliament from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Conservative, Bloc and NDP MPs inquired as to how ex-Speaker Anthony Rota arranged the tribute.
“I would actually be very interested to hear from the former Speaker as to what vetting processes he and his staff went through for this tragedy to occur,” said Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie.
“Find out exactly, precisely what happened so that it never, ever happens again,” she added.
Instead of joining Opposition parties in demanding answers for the scandal, the governing Liberals proposed striking “from the appendix of the House of Commons debates” and from “any House multimedia recording” the recognition made by Rota of Hunka, whom he described as “a Ukrainian hero” and “a Canadian hero.”
The motion failed to garner unanimous consent from all House parties September 25 after facing swift opposition from the Conservatives, who said erasing this fumble from the House of Commons record is “absolutely wrong.”
“How in God’s name did this [tribute] occur?” asked Kusie at the House Affairs Committee. “We in the House are not the only ones left wondering how this happened.”
Speaker Rota on September 22 referred to Hunka as a “Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran […] who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.”
“I am very proud to say he is from North Bay and from my riding of Nipissing-Temiskaming,” said Rota then. “He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service.”
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said reference to Hunka’s military record should have raised suspicions, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
“Someone who fought against Russia during the Second World War should not have passed the basic smell test,” he said.
Hunka, who voluntarily served in the 14th Waffen SS Galicia Division alongside his fellow members, "committed themselves to German victory, the New European Order, and to Adolf Hitler personally."
They "eagerly signed up" to fight the Polish Home Army in WWII, crush the Slovak National Uprising and hunt down anti-Nazi partisans in Slovenia.
In 1945, Hunka faced interment as an enemy prisoner of war. The following year, his division received the designation of criminal organization for their participation in the mass murders of Jews.
“My generation was united by two great forces, faith in God and love for Ukraine,” he said in a 2011 blog post on a Ukrainian-language website Combatant News.
According to Genuis, the term Nazi is “regularly thrown around as a political insult” by people who “don’t seem to have a basic understanding and recollection of the history of Nazism.”
“This is deeply troubling and it contributes, I think, to the concern about what happened,” he said.
Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola concurred, calling the incident outrageous, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
“Nobody in the House would have stood to applaud a Nazi,” she said.
New Democrat MP Gord Johns told the Commons government operations committee a proper investigation is due.
“What this committee wants, everybody wants, and that’s to make sure this is looked at and that it’s done properly, that there’s accountability,” he said.
The Conservative Party added this international incident besmirched Canada’s reputation and that "Trudeau [and Rota] have brought shame on Canada.”
“The Liberal Speaker will have to resign,” said Tory leader Pierre Poilievre last week. “But that does not excuse Justin Trudeau’s failure to have his massive diplomatic and intelligence apparatus vet and prevent honouring a Nazi."
Though Rota apologized for the glaring error, he abruptly resigned September 27 under threat of formal censure by all parties in the Commons. His successor is expected to be announced on October 3.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) maintains they did not receive a list of attendees, including Hunka, as guests of the Speaker.
“Mr. Speaker, I think indeed, Canadians and the world are watching very carefully what has happened,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in an address to all House parties.
“But I think they’re also interested in seeing who’s trying to make partisan hay out of this [incident],” he continued, “and look for gains in what was a terrible, terrible mistake.”
“Mr. Speaker, it is important we learn from this, and stand even stronger with Ukraine and counter Russian propaganda.”