It is no surprise that Yaroslav Hunka, the Nazi war veteran who received a standing ovation last Friday in the Canadian Parliament, "had little fear of the spotlight given Canada’s shameful record of pursuing Nazi war criminals on its soil after accepting them into the country in the first place," writes FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt in his latest column in the Toronto Star.
History and justice, like nature, can’t forever be ignored. The arc of history often has an interesting way of imposing itself, especially in Canada, where many people are shockingly unaware of our own nation’s past injustices.
This week, in the fallout from Canada’s Parliament honouring a Nazi war veteran last Friday, the past and present combined to haunt all Canadians of good conscience and taint our image on the world stage. It was particularly painful to Holocaust survivors and other victims of the Nazis, along with Canada’s Jewish community and all those who fought the Nazis during the Second World War.
While the House of Commons hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota introduced Yaroslav Hunka seated in the visitors’ gallery, hailing the former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS’s Galicia Division as a “Canadian hero,” and thanked him “for all his service.” All assembled gave Hunka multiple standing ovations.
The gleeful look on Hunka’s face as he basked in the thunderous applause and raised his fist in triumph are testament to the impunity that he and hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Nazis enjoyed in their postwar safe haven in Canada.
Rather than feeling the need to look over his shoulder and lay low due to his dark past, Hunka felt emboldened to appear in House of Commons in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MPs, and dignitaries, including the Jewish president of Ukraine, who himself lost family members to the Nazis during the Holocaust.
No surprise Hunka had little fear of the spotlight given Canada’s shameful record of pursuing Nazi war criminals on its soil after accepting them into the country in the first place.