Last September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Yaroslav Hunka, who fought with the Ukrainian 1st Division during the Second World War before immigrating to Canada.
Mr. Hunka was invited by Justin Trudeau's office to an exclusive event at Toronto's Fort York Armory with members of the Ukrainian community on the day of Volodymyr Zelensky's visit.
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The Prime Minister's office denies having been aware of Mr. Hunka's roadmap, noting that the Canadians invited to this event were invited on the recommendation of groups like the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians.
Last September, a community event was organized in Toronto in which the President of Ukraine participated and more than 1000 people were invited. The name of [Mr. Hunka] was submitted by the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians. This person did not participate in the activity. Knowing what we know today, this person should not have been invited, maintains Justin Trudeau's office.
Yaroslav Hunka ultimately did not attend the event in question, unlike Justin Trudeau and Volodymyr Zelensky who were present on site.
The conservative opposition was quick to react. In a statement, a spokesperson for Chief Pierre Poilievre says the Prime Minister lied to the Canadian people for months and placed the blame on everyone but himself.
The nonagenarian had been part of the 1ʳᵉ Ukrainian Division, also known as the SS Galicia Division, a volunteer unit under the Nazi command of the Waffen-SS, during World War II. Mr. Hunka emigrated to Canada after the war.
Acclaimed as a Canadian hero and a Ukrainian hero, this saga also caused Russia to react, which launched proceedings against the ex-combatant for genocide committed against civilians in Ukraine during the Second World War. President Vladimir Putin argued that it was absolutely disgusting that this former soldier was applauded at the time.
In addition to Russia, the Minister of Education of Poland, Przemysław Czarnek, claimed to have taken steps towards the possible extradition of Yaroslav Hunka in the wake of his ovation.
Faced with numerous criticisms considered unfair, the president of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada defended Mr. Hunka, expressing that he was just a soldier convinced he was fighting for Ukraine – not Germany – and that countries, including Canada, exonerated his division of war crimes.
With information from Louis Blouin