NEW DELHI: A controversy has erupted in Canada following the Canadian Parliament’s recent decision to honour a Ukrainian soldier who fought for Nazi Germany during World War II. This development has prompted a strong reaction from Russia, which has demanded clarification from Ottawa.
Ukrainian soldier Yaroslav Hunka (98) was given a standing ovation by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian lawmakers inside its parliament on September 22.
House Speaker Anthony Rota introduced him as a “wartime hero” who “fought for Ukrainian independence.”
However, the controversy centers around Hunka’s wartime history. He served as a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the 1st Galician Division, during World War II. This division, formed by Nazi Germany, consisted primarily of Ukrainian collaborators from western Ukraine and was notorious for its involvement in anti-partisan warfare and atrocities against Jewish, Polish, and Russian civilians.
The Russian Embassy in Canada, along with Russia’s Ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, has called on the Canadian government to provide clarification. Ambassador Stepanov emphasized that the SS was designated a criminal organization by the Nuremberg Tribunal and raised questions about the moral and legal implications of honouring a member of this group.
Russian Ambassador to India, Denis Alipov, criticized Canada on social media, stating: “Canada has been and remains a safe haven for Ukrainian Nazis, and not only them. Apologies for ignorance are ridiculous, while a standing ovation tells it all. Disgusting.”
In response to the growing backlash, the Canadian Parliament’s Speaker issued a public apology for extending the invitation to Hunka and accepted full responsibility for the incident. Prime Minister Trudeau’s office clarified that they had not received advance notice about the invitation or the recognition.
The controversy has spilt over to social media, with notable figures sharing their perspectives. Comedian and Hollywood actor Rob Schneider announced that he had cancelled his trip to Canada, labelling the development “deplorable” and “outrageous.”
“I just cancelled my trip to Canada. I just can’t… It’s beyond the pale. Trudeau’s handling of peaceful trucker protesters seems insignificant compared to this act of honouring one of ADOLF HITLER’S NAZI SS Soldiers by the Canadian Parliament. No words,” he said in a post.