PM Trudeau apologizing for Speaker's Nazi invite


Rachel Aiello
Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says shortly he will address the House of Commons and all Canadians, to offer Parliament's "unreserved apologies" for outgoing House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota's recognition of a man who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

This is a breaking news update, previous version follows…

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to speak to reporters on Parliament Hill ahead of question period, amid calls for him to apologize on behalf of the country for outgoing House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota's recognition of a man who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

While Trudeau walked past reporters without stopping to take questions both on his way in and out of Wednesday's Liberal caucus meeting, his office says the prime minister "will be making a brief statement" around 2 p.m. ET.

Trudeau's address will come just minutes before he heads in to question period, where it's his day of the week to field all of the questions, making it the first time he answers for the situation in the House since the controversy exploded. 

Rota resigned Tuesday, the result of all-party pressure for him to do so after he invited 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran Yaroslav Hunka who fought in a volunteer unit under Nazi command to Parliament.

The recognition came during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's address last Friday and has led to international embarrassment for the Canadian government.

And while some of the initial acrimony has calmed over the mistake for which Rota has taken full responsibility, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has continued to push for Trudeau to heed requests from Jewish advocacy groups for a personal apology and a probe to prevent a similarly sordid situation from occurring again.

"There's always someone else to blame when it comes to Justin Trudeau. But, here's the reality: responsibility and power go together. If he wants the power, he has to take the responsibility and come to the floor of the House of Commons today and apologize," Poilievre said. "The prime minister needs to let the world know that he takes responsibility for this colossal failure."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has called for Trudeau to come forward with a plan to remedy the negative impact the incident has had on Canada's image on the world stage, as well as the damage it has done to Ukraine as Russia has seized on the ordeal as a boon to its propaganda about de-Nazifying that country. 

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) have said an apology from the prime minister would be "an important step," as would seeing the Procedure and House Affairs Committee launch public hearings to investigate the vetting failures and measures needed to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.

"Justin Trudeau doesn't have to apologize for anything he did personally, we know that it's Anthony Rota who did this. But, it's Canada that's wearing this. It's all of us. It's you, it's me, it's 40 million Canadians who are wearing this shame internationally," said CTV News' political commentator and former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, on CTV News Channel Wednesday morning.

"It's not enough to say that the guy who's resigned that nobody's heard of is gone. Trudeau has got to stand up… He doesn't have to say that he did it, because anybody who knows about our Parliament knows it's not Trudeau's fault… But, he has the responsibility as our head of government to try to talk to the world and say, 'this has happened, I acknowledge it, it's shameful, and we will make sure that steps are taken in the future that nothing like this could ever happen again.'"

Facing reporters' questions over whether a further apology on behalf of the nation is required, Liberal MPs who stopped didn't directly answer. Immigration Minister Marc Miller suggested Canada's "really dark history" and the presence of Nazi war criminals needs to be reckoned with, while Health Minister Mark Holland implored calm over a continued politicization of this "absolutely massive mistake… that set back the cause of democracy."

This is a developing story, check back for updates...