REVEALED: Justin Trudeau invited Nazi soldier to official Zelensky reception
02/08/2024 // News Editors // Views

On Monday, it was revealed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited Yaroslav Hunka, the 98-year-old Ukrainian Waffen-SS veteran who received a standing ovation in the House of Commons, to a reception Trudeau hosted in honor of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

(Article by Hannah Nightingale republished from

Hunka did not attend the reception, which took place in Toronto on the same day as the House of Commons visit, the Globe and Mail reports, but the invitation from the Prime Minister raises questions on whether his background was checked and who approved his attendance.

The invitation from Trudeau was sent to Hunka four days before the reception by the Office of Protocol of Canada. The reception, which took place at Fort York Armory, was attended by Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and President Zelensky and wife Olena Zelenska, along with other members of Canada’s Ukrainian community.

The invitation, seen by the outlet, was sent through email with the subject line, "Invitation from the Prime Minister of Canada – September 22, 2023."

The email stated, "Dear Yaroslav Hunka, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is pleased to invite you to a special event. The event will take place on Friday, September 22, 2023, at 8.30 pm in Toronto, Ontario."

The email urged for a reply by the following day and added, "Once we receive confirmation of your attendance, the formal invitation will be issued, including detailed information regarding registration and access."

Trudeau’s office said Hunka’s name had been recommended by the Canadian Ukrainian Congress, alongside other members of the community, and that Trudeau had not been aware that Hunka’s name was on the invitation list.

Trudeau spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said that looking back, Hunka should not have been invited.

“The Prime Minister had no knowledge of this individual before the independent recognition by the former Speaker of the House of Commons. Last September, there was a community event with the President of Ukraine in Toronto with over 1,000 people invited. Hundreds of Canadians were invited upon the recommendation of groups like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress,” she said.

“The individual in question’s name was submitted by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The individual did not attend. Knowing what is known now – the individual shouldn’t have been invited.”

On September 22, 2023, Hunka was honored during a joint session of Parliament in which Zelensky was present, receiving two standing ovations from the room. Then-Speaker Anthony Rota pointed out Hunka in the crowd, "He is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service."

Rota said Hunka was a "veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today even at his age of 98."

Hunka was a soldier with the 14th "Galicia" division of the Waffen-SS, the military section of the Nazi SS, which was responsible for elements of terror from massive extermination camps to the daily torture and repression of citizens within occupied Europe.

Rota later resigned from his post, stating at the time, "I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelensky," noting that "public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, in addition to survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland, among other nations."

Trudeau later apologized, stating it was "a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada."

"All of us who were in this House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped even though we did so unaware of the context," Trudeau told reporters. "It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust."

Trudeau added that Canada had also sent an apology to Zelensky and the Ukrainian delegation.

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