Anthony Rota, Nipissing-Timiskaming's MP and the Speaker of the House is under fire after he praised a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran who reports say fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.
During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Ottawa on Friday, MPs including Prime Minister Trudeau and Rota, honoured 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka in the House of Commons.
Several Jewish advocacy organizations are condemning members of Parliament for giving a standing ovation to a man who fought for the Nazis.
Hunka was invited by Speaker Anthony Rota, who introduced him as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.
However, that Ukrainian division was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis.
"We have in the chamber today Ukrainian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his age of 98," Rota read on Friday to a wave of applause.
His name is Yaroslav Hunka but I am very proud to say he is from North Bay and from my riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming. He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service," Rota continued.
Advocacy group Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement today saying it's deeply disturbed that Hunka was invited and says an apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor.
They and other groups are also calling for an explanation for why the invite was extended in the first place.
Rota released a statement late Sunday afternoon to address the controversy.
"On Friday, September 22, in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery," said Rota in the statement.
"I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.
"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.
"This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding and having been brought to my attention.
"I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions," Rota concluded.
With files from The Canadian Press