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PM Trudeau invited veteran of Nazi unit to attend Zelenskyy rally in Toronto

Yaroslav Hunka, right, waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Yaroslav Hunka, right, waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Yaroslav Hunka, the man at the centre of the controversy surrounding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's September address to Parliament, was also invited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to attend a Toronto rally honouring Zelenskyy during his visit to Canada.

Hunka was in the gallery during Zelenskyy's address to parliamentarians and received a standing ovation after then-Speaker Anthony Rota acknowledged the Ukrainian-Canadian for fighting the Russians during the Second World War. Media reports later revealed he fought for Nazi Germany.

An invitation obtained through an access to information request, and first reported by Rebel News, was sent to Hunka to attend a rally in Toronto on the day that Zelenskyy addressed Parliament.

The invitation was sent on behalf of Trudeau through the Office of Protocol of Canada.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed to CBC News on Monday that Hunka was invited to the rally in Toronto, where Zelenskyy met with members of the Canadian-Ukrainian community. It said that Hunka didn't attend.

"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," a statement from the PMO 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."

CBC News has reached out to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for comment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greet supporters after a rally at the Fort York Armoury in Toronto on Friday, September 22, 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greet supporters after a rally at the Fort York Armoury in Toronto on Friday, September 22, 2023.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greet supporters after a rally at the Fort York Armoury in Toronto on Friday, September 22, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Hunka's invitation to the Toronto event likely will raise new questions about government vetting processes for events featuring foreign dignitaries.

Rota, who invited Hunka to the House to hear Zelenskyy's address, was forced to resign days after Zelenskyy's visit.

Conservatives are placing the blame for the incident squarely on Trudeau and are accusing him of not being truthful about the invitation.

"It is appalling and bewildering, although entirely unsurprising, that Justin Trudeau would embarrass our country and undermine our relationship with an ally," Sebastian Skamski, a spokesperson for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, said in an email.