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Yaroslav Hunka, right, waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2023.Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited Yaroslav Hunka, the Ukrainian Waffen-SS veteran who received two ovations in the House of Commons during a visit by Volodymyr Zelensky, to a reception he hosted in the Ukrainian President’s honour the same day.

Mr. Hunka did not attend the Toronto reception, but his invitation by the Prime Minister to the event with the Ukrainian President has raised fresh questions about who approved the Waffen-SS veteran’s attendance, and if his background had been checked.

The 98-year-old SS veteran’s ovations in the House of Commons in September sparked an outcry and led to the resignation of Anthony Rota after the Speaker pointed him out in the gallery, and paid tribute to him saying he was a Canadian and Ukrainian hero.

Mr. Rota was sharply criticized by MPs of all stripes for inviting Mr. Hunka, a constituent, and not vetting him properly. After sustained criticism and calls to resign, Mr. Rota stepped down, apologizing to the Jewish community and expressing “profound regret” for his error.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and chief executive of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Monday that Mr. Hunka’s invitation by Mr. Trudeau to a reception for Mr. Zelensky indicated a broader vetting failure by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“It is clear that failures in due diligence were not limited to the Office of the Speaker and extended to the Office of Prime Minister Trudeau,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the vetting process was either insufficient or perhaps even non-existent.”

The invitation from the Prime Minister to “a special event” at Fort York Armoury in Toronto on the evening after Mr. Zelensky’s appearance in Parliament on Sept. 22 was sent to Mr. Hunka on Sept. 19 by the Office of Protocol of Canada.

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The Toronto reception was attended by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and President Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska, as well as other dignitaries and members of Canada’s Ukrainian community.

The invitation, seen by The Globe and Mail, was sent to Mr. Hunka in an e-mail from “RSVP Official Events” under the subject line “Invitation from the Prime Minister of Canada – September 22, 2023.”

“Dear Yaroslav Hunka, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is pleased to invite you to a special event. The event will take place on Friday, September 22, 2023, at 8.30 p.m. in Toronto, Ontario.”

It asks for a reply by the next day, and says: “Once we receive confirmation of your attendance, the formal invitation will be issued, including detailed information regarding registration and access.”

The invitation says it is “for the invitee only, does not include a guest and is non-transferable.”

The reception was attended by about 1,000 people, including many members of Canada’s Ukrainian-Canadian community who were recommended by different organizations.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Monday that Mr. Hunka’s name had been proposed by the Canadian Ukrainian Congress, and Mr. Trudeau had not been aware his name had been on the invitation list.

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Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, spokesperson for the Prime Minister, said that with hindsight, Mr. Hunka should not have been invited to the reception.

“The Prime Minister had no knowledge of this individual before the independent recognition by the former Speaker of the House of Commons. Last September, there was a community event with the President of Ukraine in Toronto with over 1,000 people invited. Hundreds of Canadians were invited upon the recommendation of groups like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress,” she said in an e-mail.

“The individual in question’s name was submitted by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The individual did not attend. Knowing what is known now – the individual shouldn’t have been invited.”

Mr. Hunka did not keep his role in the Ukrainian SS division secret. Thirteen years ago, he wrote an essay about his time in the SS unit for an American online magazine focused on Ukrainian war veterans. He says he volunteered at the age of 18 out of a sense of duty to protect his homeland from the Soviets.

The Waffen-SS Galicia division was formed of Ukrainian volunteers in 1943 by Heinrich Himmler, a key figure in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and head of the SS, to try to stem the Soviet advance. Its members pledged allegiance to Hitler, with many coming to Canada after the war.

The accolades the veteran received in the House of Commons caused an outcry in Canada and abroad, with some saying it boosted discredited Russian propaganda about Ukraine having Nazi ties.

Afterward, Mr. Trudeau apologized about the honouring of Mr. Hunka in the Commons gallery, saying it was “a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada.”

Mr. Trudeau told reporters in September: “It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.”

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He said Canada was deeply sorry for involving Mr. Zelensky, who was photographed applauding Mr. Hunka. But Mr. Trudeau did not mention that Mr. Hunka had also been invited to his reception for the Ukrainian President that evening.

Sebastian Skamski, spokesperson for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, said in a statement that the Prime Minister “has blamed everyone but himself.”

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, which provides Holocaust education, said in a statement that Mr. Hunka’s invitation to the House of Commons and the reception “constitutes a failure in vetting, which is a source of pain and embarrassment to Canada’s Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, WWII veterans and Canadians writ large.”

“It is critical that the necessary steps are taken by both Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure that no such debacle ever happens again,” said spokesperson Avital Borisovsky.

Mr. Rota did not respond to a request for comment. But his spokesperson previously said that the Speaker’s guest list for the House of Commons event had not been shared with the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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