Talk about a colossal blunder – in fact an international embarrassment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited North America this past week to meet with leaders and gin up support for financial aid for the war in Ukraine. Both Canada and the United States of America stepped up with increased aid and access to hardware.
Watching the visits on CBC it was obvious Zelensky has garnered much respect amongst the political class here.
As well, Ukrainian expats and those proud to call themselves Canadians now filled halls to see the man marshalling the war effort against Russia. That sad tale began in February, 2022.
That it continues and losses mount defies description. Civilians are targeted and there is little in the way of honour if there is such a thing in military conflicts. Front line soldiers die while people deciding their fate live pretty much unbothered. It is an irony as old as time.
Zelensky however, has risen to the challenge of directing Ukraine’s response. This would be why the House of Commons floor and gallery were filled to capacity last week. There, politicians and visitors alike were addressed by Zelensky – a modern Churchill of sorts in a time of turmoil.
Within the chamber a 98-year-old man, Yaroslav Hunka, was introduced as an Ukrainian war hero. On cue the chamber erupted like trained seals in a standing ovation. We are a trusting lot, us Canadians, but parliamentarians were caught unaware of the man’s past. It turns out Hunka fought for the Nazis in the Second World War, pushing communism out of Ukraine.
The blunder and embarrassment centre around recognizing someone who the CIJA (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) has on its list of SS members who were part of Holocaust actions. Without careful vetting, organizations set themselves up for potential failures like this.
To add further insult, one of Putin’s continued claims is that Ukraine is a haven for Nazis and Russia must eliminate those elements in a neighbouring country. Already the propaganda machines has kicked into overdrive and Canada unwittingly carries the load of supporting Nazi sentiments.
Since the kerfuffle, parliamentarians have run for cover. Speaker Anthony Rota has issued an apology, which is one significant step short of the honourable thing, which would be to resign. We suspect before this newspaper hits the street, he will be forced to resign and accept responsibility for what took place.
Musings that the record of the happenings that day be expunged are an affront to those who value history. You can’t white out the record, and the challenge for the Speaker and Parliament is to demonstrate for the world to see how responsibility and accountability look in the free world. The truth matters.
All members of parliament have every right to be offended by this obvious oversight, as do Canadians. Exercising care when introducing a prop in the gallery is a necessity if situations like this are to be avoided.