Ottawa: Anthony Rota has resigned as the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament over his invitation to, and the House’s subsequent recognition of, a man who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War, media reported.
Rota announced his unprecedented decision to step aside after meeting with the House leaders from all parties on Parliament Hill on Tuesday afternoon. His move comes amid days of steadily growing pressure from MPs of all parties for him to “do the honourable thing” and vacate the Speaker’s Chair, CTV News reported.
“The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker,” Rota said, adding he was making the announcement with a “heavy heart” and that serving as House Speaker has been his “greatest honour”.
The incident that led to this historic scene unfolding in the House of Commons took place during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Canadian Parliament last Friday, CTV News reported.
Rota apologized first on Sunday, and then again to all MPs on Monday, taking full responsibility for the mistake, and for not being aware until after the controversy exploded of his constituent’s historic involvement with the Waffen-SS Galicia Division.
Rota, has apologised for praising a Ukrainian man Yaroslav Hunka, who served in a Nazi unit during World War II.
Hunka, 98, was sitting in the gallery and got a standing ovation in Canadian Parliament after Rota said he was a “hero” during a visit by Ukrainian President Zelensky, BBC reported.
Canadian Jewish group CIJA said it was “deeply troubled” that a veteran of a Nazi division that participated in the genocide of Jews had been celebrated.
It said this should never happen again, BBC reported.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was with Zelensky in the Parliament at the time.
Thousands of Ukrainians fought on the German side during the war, but millions more served in the Soviet Red Army.
In a statement, Rota said that on September 22, “in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognised an individual in the gallery. I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so”.
The Speaker added that “no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them. This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding [district] and having been brought to my attention”, BBC reported.