House of Commons | New Guest Instructions After Nazi Veteran Incident

(Ottawa) House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus will attempt to implement new instructions regarding guests at the meeting, after MPs twice stood up last September to applaud a man without knowing that he had fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

A draft directive has been distributed to all parliamentary leaders and other agents of Parliament, said Mathieu Gravel, spokesperson for Greg Fergus. “Feedback will be incorporated before the President shares these instructions with members,” he wrote in a statement.

Parliamentary leaders did not provide details on the project and Mr. Gravel admitted that he could not say more at the moment.

Yaroslav Hunka, who served with the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, a volunteer unit created by the Nazis to help fight the Soviet Union (USSR), was welcomed to the House of Commons to hear a speech from the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Liberal MP Anthony Rota, who invited Mr. Hunka, 98, and presented him as a hero, resigned as Speaker of the House of Commons following the decision.


Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old ex-combatant, received a standing ovation from all members of Parliament, who did not know at the time that he had served in a Nazi unit during World War II.

Greg Fergus was elected to succeed him in October.

In his apology, Anthony Rota said that he was solely responsible for the invitation and that neither the prime minister’s entourage nor the Ukrainian delegation were aware of it. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also apologized on behalf of Parliament.

Senior Canadian politicians have called the episode an international embarrassment. Russia has also used the controversy to advance its propaganda seeking to legitimize its large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Many MPs later expressed disgust at participating in the House’s ovation for Yaroslav Hunka, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called for hearings to determine how the invitation was made. The Conservatives argued that the blame should have been placed solely in the Prime Minister’s Office, saying the government had a responsibility to screen participants in such a high-profile event for security reasons.

One of the main functions of the House of Commons is to hold the government to account, said Steven Chaplin, who served as the House’s chief legal adviser for 12 years. “Even if the sergeants-at-arms and protocol people knew, all they could do is inform MPs, because MPs control their own processes and how to resolve issues is up to the House and not from the government,” he said.

The independence of the Speaker of the House of Commons is enshrined in a memorandum of understanding presented by the Harper government following the 2014 gunman attack on Parliament Hill. A Parliamentary Protection Service, responsible for the physical security of the parliamentary precinct, was then formed.

However, the Protective Service only looks at security threats, not political sensitivities, Steven Chaplin stressed.

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