1 of 2 | Anthony Rota (L) is welcomed by Banri Kaieda (C), vice speaker of Japan’s House of Representatives, along with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R) at the first session of the G7 Speakers' Meeting in Tokyo earlier this month. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Anthony Rota, the speaker of Canada's House of Commons, has resigned his post after he faced criticism for honoring a man who served in a unit of the Schutzstaffel, the Nazi's paramilitary organization in World War II.
"It is with a heavy heart that I rise in the House today to inform members of my resignation as speaker of the House of Commons," Rota said in a statement published by the lower house of Canada's parliament.
"It has been my greatest honor as a parliamentarian to have been elected by you, my peers, to serve as the speaker of the House of Commons in the 43rd and 44th Parliaments."
Rota had invited Yaroslav Hunka to the House of Commons for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to Parliament. The politician recognized the 98-year-old as "a Ukrainian hero" and "a Canadian hero," which led to a standing ovation in the gallery.
However, it was revealed over the weekend that Hunka had served in the First Ukrainian Division, a voluntary unit of the SS under the command of the Nazis.
Poland's Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek has now announced the possible extradition of the nonagenarian to face criminal charges. Canada and Poland do not have a formal extradition agreement.
"I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament by President Zelensky," Rota said in his announcement.
"That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, as well as to survivors of Nazi atrocities in Poland and other nations. I am deeply sorry. I accept full responsibility for my actions."
Rota said his resignation will take effect at the end of the day Wednesday to allow for the election of a new leader.