University of Alberta to Return Endowment Made in the Name of Nazi Unit Veteran Honoured in Parliament

University of Alberta to Return Endowment Made in the Name of Nazi Unit Veteran Honoured in Parliament
A sign at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on July 1, 2017. (Jeffrey Beall/Flickr)
Matthew Horwood

The University of Alberta has announced it has returned a $30,000 endowment made in the name of a former Nazi unit veteran who was inadvertently honoured in the House of Commons.

“After careful consideration of the complexities, experiences, and circumstances of those impacted by the situation, we have made the decision to close the endowment and return the funds to the donor. The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused,” the university said in a statement on Sept. 27.

On Sept. 22, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Parliament in Ottawa, speaker of the House Anthony Rota recognized a former member of Waffen SS, a Nazi division accused of war crimes during World War II. Mr. Rota called Yaroslav Hunka a “Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service,” before all MPs in the House gave him a standing ovation.

Mr. Rota subsequently apologized for recognizing Mr. Hunka in Parliament and resigned from his role as Speaker of the House on Sept. 26.

The University of Alberta said they began a review of the endowment fund that existed in Mr. Hunka’s name after the incident in the House of Commons. Back in 2019, Mr. Hunka’s family provided the donation to the university’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

In the statement, the university expressed its commitment to address antisemitism “in any of its manifestations, including the ways in which the Holocaust continues to resonate in the present.” The university also pledged to review its general naming policies and procedures to ensure alignment with its values.

On Sept. 27, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also apologized on behalf of Parliament for the incident involving Mr. Hunka.

“For all of us who were present, to have unknowingly recognized this individual was a terrible mistake and a violation of the memory of those who suffered grievously at the hands of the Nazi regime,” he said.
Following the incident, a Polish government minister said he has “taken steps“ to have the 98-year-old extradited to Poland.

“In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament, which involved honouring, in the presence of President Zelenskiy, a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation, I have taken steps towards the possible extradition of this man to Poland,” said Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani told reporters on Sept. 26 that because no formal extradition request for Mr. Hunka had yet come from the Polish government, he could not comment on the matter.