The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons resigned Tuesday after again apologizing for introducing a 98-year-old Ukrainian who served in a Nazi SS unit as a “hero” just after President Volodymyr Zelensky faced Ukraine in a joint session of the Parliament.
The speaker, Anthony Rota, introduced Yaroslav Hunka, a constituent from his electoral district, as “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero” on Friday prompting two standing ovations from lawmakers and other guests as well well a fist pump from mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish.
But in the days that followed, several Jewish groups expressed outrage and anger, saying that Mr. Hunka became a member of a volunteer Nazi unit known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, which fought on the side of Germany in World War II and declared allegiance. to Hitler.
After days of calls for him to step down, Mr. His resignation came on a day when he was scheduled to host an annual garden party at his official country residence.
“This House is bigger than any of us,” he told fellow lawmakers. “I repeat my deepest regrets.”
Mr. first apologized. Rota last weekend for his invitation and introduction to Mr. Hunka, noting that he “subsequently learned more information.”
While Mr. Rota is a member of Parliament from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, he is not a political power broker like his counterpart in the US House of Representatives. Speakers in the Canadian House of Commons act as nonpartisan adjudicators in the chamber and are independent of the government. The speaker, not the government, controls all activities and behavior within the chamber, as well as its employees.
Mr. Rota said he had not informed the governments of Canada or Ukraine about his plan to invite Mr. Hunka. However, the political opponents of Mr. Trudeau in the House of Commons and the prime minister formally apologized on behalf of Canada to Jews in Canada and abroad.
Mr. is in Toronto. Trudeau for an event with auto parts manufacturers. Karina Gould, the leader of the government house responded on his behalf by repeatedly pointing out that the invitation to Mr. Hunka was made without the knowledge of the government.
Ms. Gould, who is Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors, said he would “never in a million years have stood up and applauded someone who helped the Nazis” if he had known Mr. Hunka.
Lori Turnbull, a professor of public and international affairs at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said quiet diplomatic efforts are not enough to repair the damage done to welfare.
He said no one doubts “it was a real mistake” on Mr. Rota’s part. “But that doesn’t matter,” he said. “The point is that we are still the country that applauded Zelensky over someone who fought the Nazis.”
He added: “I don’t see how there can be any resolution to this without an acknowledgment on the part of the prime minister that something terrible has happened.”
Professor Turnbull said that because the speaker symbolizes the independence of Parliament from government, it was inappropriate and unusual for Mr. Rota runs his guest list past the prime minister’s office.
But Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative leader whose party leads Mr. Liberals. Trudeau in the polls, blamed Mr. Trudeau for not checking in on guests who joined lawmakers for Mr. Zelensky’s speech.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister, Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, said responsibility for security clearances at the event rested solely with the House of Commons, not with any police, security or intelligence agencies that report to the government.
The calls for Mr. Rota who stepped down first came from Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the left-of-center New Democratic Party. They stepped up on Tuesday ahead of a lunch meeting set by Mr Rota with the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons.
In the hours before Mr. Rota’s announcement, the deputy prime minister, foreign minister, industry minister and government leader told reporters in the House of Commons that he should resign.
In the House of Commons, the opposition Conservatives said the incident played into Russian propaganda. Cooperation between Ukrainian independence supporters and Nazi forces during World War II has been a key element of Moscow’s false narrative that the current government in Kyiv was infiltrated by neo-Nazis.
The 14th Waffen SS unit was made up of volunteers from the region of Galicia, which spanned parts of what is now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. After the Soviet occupation of western Ukraine in 1939, the creation of the unit in 1943 attracted Ukrainians eager to fight for their independence, said Dominique Arel, the chair of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa.
“As trained by SS officers, you can imagine the kind of political indoctrination they got,” he said. Although their goals were for freedom, Mr. Arel said the unit “fought and was trained by the Nazis. There is no question about it.”
Canada has long taken the position that mere membership of the 14th Waffen SS division is not a war crime, although individuals can be prosecuted for specific atrocities. A national commission was identified in 1985 that there was no evidence linking former members of the Canadian division to war crimes. Jewish groups criticized that stance, and angered Mr. Hunka again called for a re-examination.