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29 Sep, 2023 00:37

Canadian university ‘regrets’ fund named after Ukrainian Nazi

The University of Alberta has closed an endowment amid controversy over a Waffen SS fighter who was honored in Ottawa’s parliament
Canadian university ‘regrets’ fund named after Ukrainian Nazi

The fallout over the Canadian parliament’s veneration of a Ukrainian Waffen SS veteran spread to the University of Alberta on Wednesday. The institution has apologized and shut down an endowment fund named after the elderly Nazi collaborator, Yaroslav Hunka, just hours after Russian diplomats exposed his connection to the school.

The university admitted on Wednesday night that it held an endowment named after Hunka, the 98-year-old Ukrainian native who was given standing ovations by Canadian lawmakers during President Vladimir Zelensky’s visit to parliament on Friday. Upon the exposure of Hunka's Nazi past, the incident became an international embarrassment for Ottawa, leading to the resignation of House Speaker Anthony Rota, a public apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and an admission from Germany that its ambassador had applauded a former member of the Waffen SS.

Hunka’s family donated $30,000 in 2019 to establish an endowment, named after him and his wife, at the University of Alberta’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, told RIA Novosti that the embassy discovered Hunka’s link to the university and publicized the fact. A few hours later, the institutionl announced the cancellation.

“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,” university provost Verna Yiu said in a statement. “The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused.”

The school is now in the process of revising its general naming policies and procedures, including those for endowments, “to ensure alignment with our values,” Yiu added.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) welcomed the announcement that the Hunka endowment was being shut down. “Unfortunately, this is only one example of endowments at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies named after members of the Waffen SS,” FSWC official Dan Panneton said.

Hunka was a volunteer in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a Ukrainian unit that committed atrocities against Jews and Poles on the Eastern Front. Russia may request extradition of Hunka, based on an investigation of his potential involvement in war crimes, Stepanov said on Wednesday. Thousands of Ukrainian Nazi fighters were allowed to emigrate to the UK and Canada after World War II, despite their possible participation in atrocities.

However, the Hunka fund was only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the University of Alberta’s Nazi connections, Panneton told Canada’s CTV News on Thursday.

Panneton claimed that even a former chancellor of the university, Peter Savaryn, was a member of the notorious Ukrainian Nazi unit. “We’d like to see them acknowledge that this history is real, that they had people tied to the Waffen SS unit involved with their university for many, many years,” he said.

A monument at an Edmonton, Alberta, cemetery honors the Waffen SS. Also in Edmonton, a bust of Roman Shukhevich, a Ukrainian nationalist whose Nazi unit massacred Jews during World War II, is displayed at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex.

The FSWC, which has long lobbied for the Edmonton monuments to be removed, renewed those calls after last week’s Hunka debacle. “We believe that both monuments in question are monuments to people who are complicit in the genocide of six million Jews and millions of other victims of the Nazi regime and their collaborators,” Panneton told Canada’s Global News.