To hide the shame of praising a Nazi, the federal government tried to scrub from the record their celebration of Yaroslav Hunka, 98, during a visit last week to Parliament from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Government House leader Karina Gould proposed striking “from the appendix of the House of Commons debates” and from “any House multimedia recording” the recognition made by Speaker Anthony Rota of Hunka, whom he described as “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero.”
The motion failed to garner unanimous consent from all House parties Monday after facing swift opposition from the Conservatives, who said erasing this fumble from the House of Commons record is “absolutely wrong.”
“It would be absolutely wrong to strike what was said from the record,” said Conservative MP Marty Morantz. “What happened on Friday was shameful, and brought embarrassment to this Chamber.”
“Deleting the text of the Speaker’s words from Hansard would have only one purpose: to try and forget what happened, to wash the record clean,” he said. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Though Rota has apologized for the glaring error he is now facing calls to resign from all Opposition parties given that Hunka served as an officer of the 14th Waffen SS Galicia Division — a “voluntary” Nazi unit in WWII.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not comment on whether he still had confidence in the Speaker, but he confirmed they are poised to "have very important conversations" Tuesday afternoon.
Rota is set to meet with all House leaders to determine next steps, reported CTV News.
Trudeau told reporters he's sure the Speaker is "reflecting now on how to ensure the dignity of the House going forward."
On Friday, the prime minister led a standing ovation beside Zelenskyy, all House MPs and dignitaries in the gallery — a move he and all parties consider “deeply embarrassing.”
"As I said yesterday, this was deeply embarrassing for the House, and for Canada. It's a good thing that Speaker Rota apologized personally," he reiterated on Tuesday.
However, the Conservative Party said this international incident besmirched Canada’s reputation and that "Trudeau [and Rota] have brought shame on Canada.”
“The Liberal Speaker will have to resign,” he said. “But that does not excuse Justin Trudeau’s failure to have his massive diplomatic and intelligence apparatus vet and prevent honouring a Nazi."
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) claimed that as a guest of the Speaker, they did not receive a list of attendees, including Hunka.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said “such sloppiness of memory is outrageous,” claiming that many Western countries including Canada “have raised a young generation that does not know who fought whom or what happened during the Second World War.”
“And they know nothing about the threat of fascism,” he added.
Canada's leading military affairs reporter, David Pugliese, wrote a 2020 article explaining the 14th Waffen SS Galicia Division is a designated criminal organization, whose members "eagerly signed up" to serve the Nazi war machine.
"The Division was an SS division, and technically all of its officers and senior NCOs are liable for trial as war criminals," noted a report from Britain's Under-Secretary of State at the time.
The Galician Division "committed themselves to German victory, the New European Order, and to Adolf Hitler personally," explained Per Anders Rudling, a historian of Eastern European history and Associate Professor at the Department of History at Lund University, Sweden.
The SS Waffen Are known for fighting the Polish Home Army in WWII, crushing the Slovak National Uprising and hunting down anti-Nazi partisans in Slovenia.
Poland’s ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski publicly condemned the blunder, calling the praise of an SS officer a “whitewashing [of] villains.”
Dzielski said he and Rota have since spoken about the incident, and that the House Speaker apologized profusely for the indiscretion.
On Tuesday, Poland requested Canada extradite Hunka to their country where he would face criminal sanctions.