Canadian PM Trudeau, in a diplomatic standoff with India, caught red-faced in parliament over political manipulation
The latest incident showed how easy it is to get Canadian leaders to back questionable causes and dubious personalities in exchange for votes or other forms of support.
The spectacle of Canadian leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - who recently got into a major diplomatic controversy with India over his support for Sikh extremists - and Parliament Speaker Anthony Rota hailing an ex-Nazi who served with Adolf Hitler's SS that was involved in genocide and war crimes is the latest example of how politicians in that country fall easy prey to manipulation by vested interests, especially those with foreign linkages.
It also shows how readily they go along for easy political gains, regardless of their diplomatic or other consequences.
Yaroslav Hunka, who fought for the Nazis as a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS was called a hero by Rota, who thanked him “for all his service”, last week and Trudeau joined in the standing ovation for him in Parliament.
The tribute to a Nazi by Canadian leaders, who claim to champion human rights, would have passed off as just a service to a particular Canadian group except that they were caught out when Jewish groups exposed the real past of the 98-year-old Nazi soldier.
After the Hunka's past became public, Trudeau on Monday shamefacedly apologised for honouring a Nazi saying, “This is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians".
Hunka lives in Rota’s constituency and the speaker was roped in by supporters of the Nazis. The latest incident showed how easy it is to get Canadian leaders to back questionable causes and dubious personalities in exchange for votes or other forms of support.
After his praise of the Nazi was exposed, Rota told Parliament, "I am deeply sorry I offended many with my gestures and remarks”.
"I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so”, he said.
After Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had addressed Parliament on Friday, Rota pointed to Hunka, who was in the public gallery and said, “He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero and we thank him for all his service”.
Zelensky, who was unaware of Hunka’s war record, was trapped unawares in the pro-Nazi frenzy at Canada's parliament that is forever passing judgments on other countries and preaching human rights and he joined in the ovation, giving a fist bump.
Rota said, “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”.
The speaker had said while introducing Hunka, that he is “a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians”.
The incident played into Ruassia’s accusations that Ukraine is run by neo-Nazis, even though Zelensky is himself Jewish.
Kremlin’s Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed outrage about the Canadian honour and said, "Many Western countries, including Canada, have raised a young generation that does not know who fought whom or what happened during the Second World War”.
Canada has given refuge to members of the Nazi forces - like it does for Khalistani extremists - which have carried out the horrific genocide of 6 million Jewish people. The Waffen-SS was declared to be a criminal organisation in World War II by the Nuremberg Trials held by the International Military Tribunal for Nazi war crimes.
Historians have documented atrocities committed by the division that Hunka served in against the people of Slovakia and Poland, murdering hundreds of people.
This came even as Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is in New York, said it was still a world of “double standards” and countries occupying “positions of influence” are “resisting the pressure to change” and those with “institutional influence or historical influence” have “actually weaponised a lot of those capabilities”.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and India have become tense over the murder of a Canadian Sikh separatist leader. Trudeau recently announced in parliament that its intelligence agencies were investigating “credible" allegations linking Indian agents to the death of Khalistani separatist and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Canadian Sikhs held protests outside Indian diplomatic missions in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. In Toronto, demonstrators even went to the extent of burning the Indian flag and hitting a cardboard figure of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with shoes. About 100 protesters took part in Toronto and nearly 200 in Vancouver, local media reports said.