In a recent session of the Canadian Parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was warmly received following his less-than-stellar visits to the United Nations and Washington.
However, it was the standing ovation given to a 98-year-old man that sparked controversy and raised eyebrows. Zelensky arrived in Canada’s capital after meetings with President Joe Biden and lawmakers in Washington.
His address to the Canadian Parliament was met with applause and standing ovations, underscoring Canada’s long-standing support for Ukraine. Zelensky’s speech, filled with determination and resolve, echoed his sentiment that ‘Moscow must lose once and for all.’
Parlement of Canada cheering for a nazi that fought for Hitler?
— Spectral News (@spectral_news) September 24, 2023
However, amidst the applause for Zelensky, another figure was recognized, causing a stir. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, acknowledged Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old veteran from the Second World War.
Hunka was described as having fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his advanced age.
The controversy lies in Hunka’s past military affiliation. He was reported to have fought with the First Ukrainian Division in World War II before immigrating to Canada.
This division is also known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, or SS Galichina, the military wing of the Nazi Party. Formed in 1943, SS Galichina was composed of recruits from the Galicia region in western Ukraine.
The unit was armed, trained by the Nazis, and commanded by German officers. In 1944, the division was visited by SS head Heinrich Himmler, who praised the soldiers’ willingness to slaughter Poles. Notably, SS Galichina subunits were responsible for the Huta Pieniacka massacre, where 500 to 1,000 Polish villagers were burned alive.
Standing ovation in Canadian parliment yesterday for a WW2 Ukrainian SS Nazi officer living in Canada, 98 yrs old.
This is almost funny, but at the same time so sad
— E.B. Miller “Welcome to the Golden Age of Fraud” (@CicerosJungle) September 24, 2023
The International Military Tribunal during the Nuremberg Trials declared the Waffen-SS a criminal organization.
They were held accountable for mass atrocities including the persecution and extermination of Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labor program, and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners.
Despite this dark history, Canada has two monuments dedicated to the SS unit, one outside Toronto and the other in Edmonton. These monuments have been a point of contention, with Canadian Jewish organizations calling for their removal.
The standing ovation given to Hunka by the Canadian Parliament sparked debate and controversy.
While some see it as an acknowledgment of a veteran who fought for Ukrainian independence, others view it as a tacit endorsement of a man who served in a division known for its war crimes.
While Zelensky’s visit to Canada was marked by warmth and support, the recognition of Hunka has cast a shadow over the proceedings. It serves as a stark reminder of the complex and often painful history that intertwines nations and individuals alike.