Speaker of the House Anthony Rota apologized Sunday for honouring a man who fought in a Nazi unit during the Second World War.
Rota was responding to condemnation from Jewish groups and others stemming from a moment during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Parliament on Friday. During the visit, Rota said the man was "a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service."
Those gathered in the House responded with applause and a standing ovation.
"I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to [honour Hunka]. I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them," Rota said.
"I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world," he added.
Rota said he accepted "full responsibility" for his actions.
Yaroslav Hunka, 98, was part of the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
CBC News has attempted to contact Hunka and his family for comment, but have not been successful.
In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office said the decision to invite and honour Hunka was made by the Speaker's office alone.
"The independent Speaker of the House has apologized and accepted full responsibility for issuing the invitation and for the recognition in Parliament. This was the right thing to do," said a PMO spokesperson.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognize Yaroslav Hunka (not pictured). Speaker of the House Anthony Rota is now apologizing for honouring the man, who fought with a Nazi unit in the Second World War, saying no one else was aware of his intentions to recognize the man. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)
Jewish groups and others had raised the alarm about Hunka's past actions.
"The fact that this individual, and by proxy the organization he was a member of, was given a standing ovation in the House of Commons is deeply troubling," Dan Panneton, a director with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, told CBC News on Sunday.
"I think association with this unit makes you a Nazi collaborator. To be part of this unit, you swore allegiance to Hitler and you were involved with the massacre of civilians. So it doesn't matter if you try and claim that you were defending against communism, you were still involved with the Nazi war machine. That makes you complicit," he said.
Panneton said he believes that solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russian invasion is incredibly important.
"However, solidarity cannot tolerate the distortion or outright celebration of Nazi collaboration or war crimes. So in future events, people have to be a lot more careful about who they're associating with when they're expressing support and solidarity for the very just cause of Ukraine," he said.
In a statement on Friday, Pierre Poilievre accused the prime minister of responsibility for the incident and called for him to apologize. The Prime Minister's Office says it was Rota's office who was in charge of Hunka's invitation.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued a statement Sunday saying his party shared the concerns of those condemning the incident and noting that the NDP was not aware of the man's background at the time of the visit.