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House Speaker Anthony Rota resigns over Nazi veteran invite

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House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota has resigned after he invited a man who fought for the Nazis to attend a speech by Ukraine’s president.

Rota stepped down following calls from across the political spectrum.

Government House leader Karina Gould said Tuesday morning that she believed members of Parliament had lost confidence in Rota.

Gould said she “can’t see” how Rota will maintain the confidence of Liberal MPs, and it’s time for the Speaker to do the “honourable thing.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also urged Rota to resign, following similar calls by the NDP and Bloc Quebecois on Monday.

Rota, whose role it is to be impartial and maintain order in the House of Commons, had been facing international scrutiny over the controversy.

On Friday, Rota honoured and recognized Yaroslav Hunka, a veteran of the First Ukrainian Division, during a parliamentary address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The voluntary unit was under the command of the Nazis and was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division.

All members of Parliament who were in attendance had stood twice and applauded the 98-year-old without knowing the details of his past.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was expecting important conversations to be held when the House leaders for the main federal parties meet with Rota later on Monday, but he wouldn’t say if he should resign.

“It’s a good thing that Speaker Rota apologized personally and I’m sure he’s reflecting now to ensure the dignity of the House going forward,” Trudeau said Tuesday before his cabinet meeting.

“I know that House leaders are going to be meeting later this morning and I’m sure they’ll have very important conversations.”

Prior to the meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly joined other MPs in asking for Rota’s resignation.

“What happened on Friday is completely unacceptable,” Joly said on Tuesday. “I think the Speaker should listen to the House and step down.”

The Speaker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With Rota’s resignation, parliamentary procedure dictates that the House will cease its normal operations in order to elect a new Speaker at the earliest opportunity.

The Conservatives have said they believe Trudeau is throwing Rota under the bus and that the prime minister should take responsibility for the invitation.

The Prime Minister’s Office said it was unaware that Hunka was invited until after the address. The Speaker’s office also confirmed it did not share its invite list with any other party or group.

The vetting process for visitors to the gallery is for physical security threats, not reputational threats, the Speaker’s office said.

Rota apologized to MPs on Monday, saying the decision to invite Hunka was entirely his own.

He also met with Poland’s Ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski following the invite.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Dzielski said he had a “very open and detailed conversation” with Rota and that his understanding is there was no ill intent related to the invitation.

“If the mistakes make us wiser and our bond stronger, so be it! Thank you, Anthony!” Dzielski posted with a photograph of himself shaking hands with Rota.

But that’s not good enough for one Polish politician who is participating in a general election back home.

Poland’s Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek posted on X that he’s taken steps to possibly extradite Hunka back to Poland.

Justice Minister Arif Virani said no one from the Polish government has contacted him regarding the matter.

He added that he can’t comment on anything related to extradition until it lands on his desk because his wading into the issue could jeopardize any investigations that may be underway.

“Commenting on an early stages of an extradition process is not appropriate,” Virani said Tuesday.

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