The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons, Anthony Rota, stepped down from his post on Tuesday amid controversies over his invitation to a veteran who fought for a Nazi military unit during the Second World War.
Rota announced his decision to resign after meeting with the House leaders from all parties on Parliament Hill Tuesday afternoon.
“This House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your speaker,” Rota told lawmakers while announcing his resignation ahead of Tuesday’s question period in parliament.
In his address, Rota also reiterated his regret for the error in recognizing an individual in the House. Rota said that “public recognition” he gave to a former Nazi soldier “caused pain to individuals and communities,” including Jewish people, Poles and “other survivors of Nazi atrocities.”
The announcement by Rota was met with applause in the parliament chamber.
Rota’s resignation came amid revelation that Canadian lawmakers gave a standing ovation on Friday to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian, shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the House of Commons as part of his visit to Canada. On Saturday, it came to limelight that Hunka was in fact part of a Nazi unit fighting for Ukrainian independence during the Second World War.
Canadian lawmakers, including those from Rota’s own Liberal Party, were exerting pressure on him to vacate the speaker’s chair on moral grounds. In Tuesday’s parliament session, opposition party lawmakers asked him to resign, calling his invitation to the Nazi veteran to parliament as an “international embarrassment” and “diplomatic disaster” to Canada and the Canadian people.
Rota’s resignation will be in effect from Wednesday and a new process for electing his successor will start, according to local media reports.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also lamented the parliament’s accidental standing ovation to the Nazi veteran, calling the incident “extremely upsetting.”
Rota, who was first elected as a Liberal Party member of parliament in 2004, has been speaker of the House of Commons since 2019.