A pearl clutching ordeal
Opinion by Dave Glover
Image: Antony Rota, CBC.ca
Well, it’s been over a week since Canadian members of parliament gave a standing ovation to a WWII veteran of the Ukraine war, a Nazi war veteran.
It happened last Friday when Parliament welcomed the President of Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky.
The story of how Canada found itself congratulating a Nazi is interesting.
The vet’s son, a resident in the parliamentary speaker’s riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming, contacted the Speaker’s Office.
The man told one of Antony Rota’s staffers that his father, Mr Hunka, is a 98-year-old WWII veteran who fought the Russians and is a huge fan of Ukraine’s President Zelensky. The man asked if his father could get a seat in the gallery for the upcoming visit.
Now, a couple of things worth mentioning…
First, anyone who knows WWII history knows, that the Russians, i.e. U.S.S.R were our allies during the war.
It should have been obvious to the staffer that if this man’s father was fighting the Russians in Ukraine, then he was fighting for Germany, specifically the Nazis.
Secondly, the man’s son only asked that his father be allowed to view the visit with the expectation that he would sit in the gallery.
The staffer didn’t say anything about being mentioned by the Speaker when the house welcomed President Zelensky.
I’m sure just being a witness to history would’ve been fine but no…
Mr. Rota, for whatever reason, after welcoming the President, took it upon himself to acknowledge Mr.Hunka, the Ukrainian vet who just happened to fight the Russians… our allies.
Whoops-a-daisy! Just like that, the pearl-clutching commenced.
I realize I’m downplaying the sentiment of the event and, yes, there just may be people offended but c’mon… obviously, the Speaker’s acknowledgement of the old dude was done with the best of intentions.
While there was little forethought, there was no malice.
Obviously, someone should have put two and two together. Now the speaker has resigned, and the Prime Minister has apologized even though it wasn’t his fault. Telling the world, on behalf of Canadians, that we were so foolish honouring a veteran from the wrong side.
Mr. Poilievre, leader of the Conservative party of Canada has yet to apologize, while Mr. Singh, leader of the New Democrative Party of Canada, has acknowledged the blunder.
The man at the centre of the this controversy, Mr. Hunka, is alleged to have been a member of a particularly brutal Ukraine Nazi Unit responsible for war crimes in Ukraine and Poland. Obviously, had any of this been known beforehand, Mr. Hunka wouldn’t have been invited.
This brings up the real problem, who does the ball stop with?
Former Parliamentary Speaker Rota who has been a member of Parliament since 2004 and held the Speakership since 2019, has said he and his staff should have done a deeper dive into this man’s past.
He apologized and resigned. But there is more to this.
I believe Rota and his staff simply saw a man who was a Ukraine war vet who coincidentally fought the Russians. They probably saw an opportunity to draw a connection between the generations… Ukrainians fighting the Russians, then and now.
Obviously, had they spoken to anyone over the age of sixty they’d have been told their grasp of history is weak.
This event had nothing to do with the Government. It’s not a Trudeau scandal. The Speaker is an independent officer of Parliament. His is a procedural job overseeing proceedings, maintaining decorum, interpreting rules.
The opposition would have Canadians believe the Prime Minister is all-controlling and therefore responsible, but this isn’t the case.
I believe, if Trudeau apologizes, so too should the leader of the opposition parties.
They’re equally responsible, which is to say – and we all know this – that none of them are. It was a dumb mistake due to insufficient research.
While I’m not happy our Parliament got played, I’m more disappointed in the way the story has been manipulated.
The Leader of the official opposition continues to blame the Prime minister and the Government for embarrassing Canada on the world stage. When he knows full well, that simply isn’t the case.
Yes, it was a ridiculous gaffe, but it’s being exploited for partisan political gain. I suspect that they will keep the narrative going as long as it gets them a few donations from those Canadians who can’t see they’re being played.
Unfortunately, this kind of propaganda undermines our government and government institutions.
For example, it was announced that the University of Calgary has returned a $30.000 dollar endowment received from the Hunka family in 2019. With no details provided, this begs for a comparison with Sackler family and the resulting opioid scandal blowback with institutions removing endowment naming rights. A completely irrational comparison.
For those keeping track, the opposition has attacked the judiciary, the education system, even Canada’s free market with the Prime Minister getting heat for everything that ails the country.
I hope this particular scandal is an eye-opener.
Sometimes, a mistake is just a mistake.
And, hey, in a minority Parliament, anything’s possible, even the unimaginable…
Let’s congratulate and welcome the new Speaker, the first Black Canadian Speaker of the house, Mr. MP Greg Fergus. Obviously he’s got his hands full.
Now, can we stop the pearl clutching?
Dave Glover is a well known cultural and political commentator in Northumberland. Thousands of listeners, both locally and worldwide, know Dave because of his “Drive Time” radio broadcast that ran for more than 8 years and his 15 years hosting political programs on a local cable channel.
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