Canada’s Governor General to Address Nazi Recognition Fiasco with Ukraine’s President

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The pronounced embarrassment felt by Canada’s Governor General, Mary Simon, in response to Parliament’s recognition of a man who actively fought for a Nazi unit during World War II can hardly be understated. Simon, who refers to the incident as “a shock and embarrassment,” is considering taking matters into her own hands by directly interfacing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address this diplomatic fumble.

In her official capacity as the representative of Canada’s head of state King Charles III, Simon extended her welcome to Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska during their visit to Rideau Hall last Friday. Thereafter, the Ukrainian delegation proceeded to Parliament Hill.

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Simon, however, wasn’t present at either Zelenskyy’s address or the recognition ceremony honouring the 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran, Yaroslav Hunka. Despite her absence, Simon expressed profound embarrassment about the entire situation in an interview she held later.

She further alluded to the possibility of contacting Zelenskyy to discuss the matter, stating curtly, “Perhaps, yes. We’re talking about it right now.”

The contentious incident took place after Zelenskyy’s address to the House of Commons, where then-Speaker Anthony Rota called for a standing ovation for Hunka. However, controversy quickly followed when it was revealed that Hunka, lauded as a Canadian and Ukrainian “hero,” had fought for the Nazi-affiliated Waffen-SS Galicia Division.

Simon, while unfamiliar with the process and protocols surrounding guest invites for speaking at Parliament, has spent time in the aftermath trying to comprehend the misjudgment. Acknowledging the shock it caused, she admits, “what happened really affected how people felt about the event that was so positive.”

Apologies were swiftly in order, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issuing unreserved apologies on behalf of Parliament. The prime minister referred to the incident as a “horrendous violation” of the memory of millions who perished in the Holocaust, striking a regrettable chord amidst Vladimir Putin’s concurrent de-Nazifying Ukraine propaganda.

Trudeau, albeit vague about his plans to communicate directly with Zelenskyy, confirmed that apologies were channeled to the Ukrainians at the “ministerial level.” As for the possible effect of this unfortunate incident and its potential to strain Canada-Ukraine relations, Trudeau assured, “we continue to stand incredibly strong with Ukraine in its fight against Russia.”

Canada’s unwavering support of Ukraine is well-known, a sentiment also echoed by Simon. In her closing remarks, she emphasised the need to continue working with other countries to foster democratic values and uphold a rules-based world.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, acknowledging the hard and painful reminder of their history invoked by recent events, expressed gratitude to Canada and all Canadians for their steadfast support of Ukraine. As the dust settles on this diplomatic debacle, Canada’s consistent support and solidarity for Ukraine remains unshaken.