But what led to the decision, and what changed over the last 48 hours which saw Rota twice apologize?
The controversy involves 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, a Ukrainian-Canadian who fought for a Nazi war unit during the Second World War. Hunka was a guest of Rota’s during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Ottawa on Sept. 22.
On Tuesday, senior Liberals joined calls that had begun on Monday for Rota to resign.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly was among those who called for Rota to step down Tuesday, a day after the NDP and the Bloc Québécois demanded he resign as Speaker. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has also called for Rota to step down.
Joly said the recognition was “completely unacceptable.”
“I think the Speaker should listen to members of the House and step down,” she added.
Hunka fought for Nazi Germany as a member of the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, during the Second World War. The “hero,” as Rota described last Friday, received two separate standing ovations in the House of Commons.
“This was deeply embarrassing in the House and for Canada. It’s a good thing that Speaker Rota apologized personally, and I’m sure he’s reflecting now on how you ensure the dignity of the House going forward,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
House leaders were meeting with Rota on Tuesday. Before it began, Government House Leader Karina Gould said she’s spoken with Liberal MPs about the issue.
“I can’t see, based on the conversations that I’ve had, that he will continue to have the support of Liberal members of Parliament and I think it’s time for him to do the honourable thing,” she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also said Rota should do the “honourable thing” given how “truly serious and damaging this error was.”
Rota has apologized twice — first on Sunday when Hunka’s background emerged — and again on Monday. He said he had no knowledge of Hunka’s history, and expressed regret for his decision.
Despite calls for an apology by prominent Jewish organizations, Opposition MPs said it wasn’t enough and demanded Rota’s resignation from the role.
“The Parliament entrusts the Speaker to guide this Parliament through challenging circumstances,” said New Westminster—Burnaby MP Peter Julian on Monday in a statement directed to Rota.
“Unfortunately, I believe a sacred trust has been broken. It’s for that reason, for the good of the institution of the House of Commons that I say sadly, I don’t believe you can continue in this role. Regrettably, I must respectfully ask that you step aside.”
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also called for Rota’s resignation in a statement Monday.
“The Bloc Québécois can only note, on the one hand, the damage caused by the presidency’s error, and on the other hand, the loss of confidence of the House which it needs to exercise its function,” he said.
“Consequently, we invite the Speaker of the House to act responsibly and renounce his function.”
Conservatives are taking aim at the Prime Minister’s Office, saying Hunka shouldn’t have been in the House in the first place. Poilievre said in a post on X Tuesday, formerly known as Twitter, and Trudeau and Rota have “brought shame” on Canada.
“The Liberal Speaker will have to resign,” he said.
“But that does not excuse Justin Trudeau’s failure to have his massive diplomatic and intelligence apparatus vet and prevent honouring a Nazi.”
Gould said Monday the government had “no knowledge” of Hunka’s visit to the House of Commons.
The First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia, was a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazi SS.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said the division “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.” The group also called for Rota’s resignation on Tuesday.
B’nai Brith Canada said in a statement Sunday that the division, which was formed in 1943, contained “Ukrainian ultra-nationalist ideologues” who “dreamed of an ethnically homogenous Ukrainian state and endorsed the idea of ethnic cleansing.”
Witold Dzielski, Poland’s ambassador to Canada, demanded an apology in a post on X on Sunday. He said Poland is the “best ally” Ukraine has, but that it “will never agree on whitewashing such villains.”
Meanwhile, there are fears that the matter plays into the narrative promoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he sent his army into Ukraine last year to “demilitarize and denazify” the country.
Western nations have refuted this, saying Putin’s invasion is an imperialistic-style land grab.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Hunka’s recognition showed a careless disregard for historical truth, and that the memory of Nazi crimes must be preserved.
“Such sloppiness of memory is outrageous,” Peskov told reporters.
“Many Western countries, including Canada, have raised a young generation that does not know who fought whom or what happened during the Second World War. And they know nothing about the threat of fascism.”
— with files from The Canadian Press