University of Alberta Silent on Apology Over Controversial Order of Canada Recipient


The University of Alberta has refrained from commenting on recent apologies issued by the Governor General’s Office concerning the controversial bestowal of the Order of Canada to Peter Savaryn, a former university chancellor and Nazi veteran.

Savaryn who migrated to Canada in 1949, served as the university chancellor from 1982 to 1986 and was posthumously accorded the Order of Canada in 1987. He had been a member of the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, a unit voluntarily supporting the Nazis in combat against the Soviet Union, until his demise in 2017 at 90 years old.

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“The Order of Canada’s historic appointments reflect a particular temporal context and would have been established based on the finite information available at the time,” Lynne Santerre, the deputy director of public matters for the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, said in a statement delivered through electronic correspondence. She further conveyed her deepest regrets to Canadians for any distress or harm caused in the light of Savaryn’s appointment.

The apology emerged following the standing applause accorded to 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, a veteran from the same division as Savaryn, during an address by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the House of Commons on September 22. However, the applause led to the resignation of Liberal MP Anthony Rota from his role as House Speaker due to the decision of inviting Hunka.

On September 27, the University of Alberta resolved to close a $30,000-endowment fund donated by Hunka and named in his honor. Dr. Verna Yiu, the university’s provost and vice-president, stated that this decision was made after introspective considerations of the complications and experiences pertaining to the situation.

The university acknowledges their inadvertent harm caused and is presently re-evaluating their general naming protocols, including those for endowments, for compatibility with their institutional policies. Ross Neitz, the University spokesperson, assured through electronic communication that in-depth reviews like these require time and due diligence.

When queried about the Governor General’s apology for the Savaryn award, the University astutely declined to reveal additional details while these comprehensive review processes are still underway.

Savaryn’s memorial webpage, which is still publicly accessible on the university website, commends him for his passion for education and multiculturalism. The page eulogizes Savaryn’s contributions to public service, praising his insurmountable optimism and empathy for others.

However, there have been prior calls for the university to acknowledge its past affiliations with former Nazis. Dan Panneton from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies demanded an apology from the university and a stringent review of its links to the controversial Waffen-SS unit and the implications for both the institution and Canadian society at large. His two-worded appeal: ‘acknowledgement and apology.’

The constitution of the Order of Canada decrees that upon death, a person’s membership is terminated; thus posthumous retraction of Savaryn’s membership is impossible.