Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons Anthony Rota is resigning from his posts after saluting an elderly Ukrainian who fought in a Nazi unit in WW2. Rota was forced to resign by the public outrage following his embarrassing act, and he will return to the bench of his Liberal Party on Wednesday. Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon will serve as interim Speaker until a new, permanent Speaker is elected next Tuesday.
Yaroslav Hunka, 98, was a Nazi collaborator during WW2, and his unit has been listed as a criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trials. Last Friday, Hunka was part of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy entourage when he delivered an address to the Canadian parliament. After the speech, when members of the House of Commons rose in a standing ovation for Zelenskyy, Speaker Anthony Rota pointed to the very elderly Hunka, urging the House to give him, too, a standing ovation (Canada’s House Speaker Apologizes for Praising Zelenskyy’s Nazi Companion).
Speaker Rota told the House last Friday, “We have here in the chamber today a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his age of 98. His name is Yaroslav Hunka. I am very proud to say that he is from North Bay and from my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming. He is a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service. Thank you.”
Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also stood up and applauded Hunka. Zelenskyy then raised his fist and Hunka saluted from the gallery.
On Saturday, Speaker Rota issued a statement saying, “In my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”
He apologized to “Jewish communities in Canada and around the world.”
He will go down in history as the first politician to lose his job for misguided applause.
The Speaker also said, “I have acted as your humble servant, carrying out the important responsibilities of this position to the very best of my abilities. The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker.”
MP Anthony Rota, 62, served as Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons since 2019.
On June 17, 2020, Rota removed New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh from the House of Commons for calling Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien a racist.