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Canada, known for antisemitism sentiments, has shot itself in the foot with the Hunka affair

Canada's economy under stress (Image courtesy: IANS)

It is no secret that the Canadian society has displayed deep rooted anti Semitism sentiments from time to time. But Ottawa has now shot itself in the foot by honouring Yaroslav Hunka, who was part of the Nazi unit during World War II. The incident which took place in the Canadian Parliament, where Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was present, not only angered the Jew community across the world but Canada’s allies have also had to distance themselves on this issue. Even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered an “unreserved” apology for the “terrible mistake,” it has put Ottawa’s policies under the spotlight.

“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,” Trudeau said.

The Jerusalem Post, in an article published in July this year noted how Canada has been indifferent to the Jewish cause.

Largely because of antisemitism, only 5000 Jews were admitted to Canada from 1933 until 1945. Only 500 were admitted from 1939 to 1945, when sanctuary was most desperately needed, the article written by Jacob Sivak, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a retired professor of University of Waterloo, said. “Admitting Jewish refugees to Canada was not popular politically, and the frantic efforts of the leaders of the then 160,000 member Jewish community were largely futile,” Sivak added.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, antisemitism in Canada has been part of the mainstream, “Until the 1950s it had respectability; no one apologized for being anti-Jewish — no one asked them to. Expressions of anti-Semitism were heard in the halls of Parliament, read in the press, taught in the schools and absorbed in most churches,” it said.

Anti-Semitism refers to hostility and discriminatory behaviour against the Jew.

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, a Canadian Jewish service and advocacy group said at a press conference in April this year said that there were 2,769 antisemitic incidents recorded in 2022. A year before, the figure was 2,799. Most of these incidents took place online.

The honouring of the 98 year old Hunka took place soon after Canada claimed that India was behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).

While support was beginning to build among Canada’s allies over Ottawa’s claims, the incident has stumped many. Foreign policy watchers opined that the divide between the Global South and the North is becoming prominent once again with the incidents in Canada. Russia has asked Canada to take prompt action against Hunka.

The incident, meanwhile, overshadowed Zelensky’s visit to Canada. The Ukrainian President’s visit to Canada right after the US trip where he met American President Joe Biden was part of an overall effort aimed at mustering international support.

Also read: Amid India-Canada row, NIA crackdown on Khalistanis exposes transnational terror-gangster-drug smuggling network