Deliver us from evil
Of all the unnecessary imbroglios you might imagine, the resignation of Anthony Rota as speaker of the House of Commons must rank right up there. And, of course, all the participants climbed on their high horses and played their parts as if this were some dark Shakespearean tragedy.
Let’s begin at the beginning with the focus of this public hanging. Yaraslov Hunka, a constituent of Rota’s, was invited by the speaker to hear Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky address Members of Parliament last week. Hunka was introduced from the speaker’s chair by Rota as a “Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero” and he received sustained applause from all who were present.
But wait, some group soon pointed out, Hunka was a member of the Waffen SS during the Second World War, might have committed activities as a Nazi, and so shouldn’t have been celebrated in 2023. But Hunka, who is 98, was born in 1925. He was 19 or 20 when the Second World War ended so was unlikely to have been in any leadership position.
Despite a lack of specific information, everyone involved – and a few who weren’t – went into action. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed embarrassment, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre demanded hearings into how this faux pas could have happened, and the Kremlin called it outrageous that Hunka could be cited as a hero and wondered why Canadians don’t have better knowledge about the Second World War and the history of fascism.
Speaker Rota resigned in disgrace and Hunka returned to his home in northern Ontario as a newly reviled member of his community.
One can call upon great quotes in such circumstances. George Santayana comes to mind: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Or Winston Churchill who riffed off the same motif: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I have an even better idea. Rather than worrying about the terrible actions of the past while donating more armaments for this war, why don’t all participants focus instead on peace talks between Russia and Ukraine? With a total of 500,000 dead from both sides and millions of refugees, time is long since past to establish a process that leads to peace.
As for the distant past, I’m sure there was abominable behaviour on all sides. I have a quote for that, too: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”