There has been a great deal of reporting about parliament celebrating a World War II Nazi soldier. But even though he was praised specifically for fighting Russia the media has ignored the horrors inflicted by the Nazis on Russians.
During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent speech to Parliament, 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka was labeled a “hero” by the Speaker of Parliament for fighting Russia. In subsequently justifying his embarrassing presentation of the 14th Waffen SS volunteer, Anthony Rota noted, “my intention was to show that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not a new one.” For Rota the Nazi bit was an aside, or as Caitlin Johnstone opined, “Nobody Who Fought Against Russia Could Possibly Be Bad!”
This idea isn’t new. The mid 1980s federal government-appointed Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada came to a similar conclusion. In justifying a do-nothing approach to Canadian former Waffen SS members — who swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler and were part of an organization deemed criminal by the Nuremberg Tribunal — the commission noted that the division’s soldiers volunteered “not because of a love of the Germans but because of their hatred for the Russians and the Communist tyranny.”
What the Nazis did to Russians during World War II was horrific. According to official statistics, 11 million Russian/USSR military personnel and 16 million civilians were killed. The siege of Leningrad (present-day Saint Petersburg) was ghastly. As a result of one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, around 1.5 million died.
In a statement pointing out there are over 200 000 Canadians of Russian descent and that almost all Russians “lost at least one relative in combating Nazism”, that country’s ambassador noted, “I strongly believe that despite deep disagreements between Moscow and Ottawa on the current geopolitical situation, the Government and the Parliament of Canada must find courage to apologize directly to all Russians and the Russian Canadian community for the disgraceful incident the whole world was watching on September 22.”
Another important omission from the discussion is Canada’s long-standing belligerence towards Russia. As part of its ties to the British empire, Ottawa has been in a near state of war with Russia for over a century and a half.
Much of the British garrison in Canada left for Crimea during the 1853-56 war and many Canadians also volunteered for British units fighting Russia. In “How the Crimean War of 1853 Helped Shape the Canada of Today,” historian C.P. Champion describes how the naval base on Vancouver Island was greatly expanded in response to the war. He also quotes historian John Castell Hopkins explaining that the Militia Act of 1855, which formed the basis for today’s army, was “a result of the feeling aroused by the Crimean War.”
Recently a well-known Canadian leftist suggested she was unaware that Canada invaded Russia a century ago. The vast majority of Canadians don’t know that between 1917 and 1920 six thousand Canadians fought there. In the summer of 1919 the British air force dropped diphenylchloroarsine against the Bolsheviks in Murmansk and Archangel. They fled in panic from a gas that caused uncontrollable coughing and individuals to vomit blood. About 600 Canadians fought in Murmansk and Archangel.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Ottawa worked to isolate Moscow. Canada opposed a treaty to guarantee Russia’s pre-World War I frontiers and for most of that period had no diplomatic relations with Moscow.
The Canadian/European elite’s pre-war dalliance with Hitler was largely because of his dislike of communism/Russia/Slavs. Hitler’s Mein Kampf is deeply anti-Slavic and he calls for the destruction of Soviet Russia. In fact, one of Hitler’s aims at the start of the war was to expel or wipe out Slavs to make living space for German settlers.
At the end of World War II, the US dropped nuclear weapons on Japan partly as a threat to Moscow. After the war an Iron Curtain descended over Europe. When the USSR dissolved, Canada immediately pushed to expand NATO to Russia’s doorstep and backed anti-Russian civil society groups in eastern Europe. US officials like former vice-president Dick Cheney have talked about breaking up the Russian Federation while foreign minister Melanie Joly has suggested that Canada’s aim in the current war is to precipitate regime change in Moscow. Through its 2015 Operation Unifier Ukrainian military training mission Canada effectively entered into a low-level proxy war with Russia. Moscow massively expanded that conflict 19 months ago. Since then Canada has ploughed in huge amounts of arms in a bid to weaken Russia.
The scandal over Parliament’s standing ovations for a Nazi soldier is principally about Russophobia in Canadian politics. Yet, in both his ‘apologies’ on the Hunka incident Prime Minister Justin Trudeau actually doubled down on the fearmongering, decrying “Russian propaganda” and “Russian disinformation”.
While Moscow’s action in Ukraine are condemnable, Russophobia in Canada is largely an outgrowth of the country’s relationship to the British and US Empires, which has viewed Russia as an imperial competitor.
NaziGate highlights that few in Canadian politics see any problem in killing Russians.