Governor General apologizes for Order of Canada awarded to Waffen SS member

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OTTAWA — Governor General Mary May Simon is apologizing for an Order of Canada award given to an Alberta man who served in the same Nazi unit as a man recognized in the House of Commons last month.

In a written statement, Rideau Hall said it regretted the award given to Peter Savaryn in 1987. Savaryn was Chancellor of the University of Alberta and President of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta in the 1980s. He also served with the Waffen SS, a voluntary Nazi unit in Ukraine during the Second World War.

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“It is with deep regret that we acknowledge that Mr. Peter Savaryn was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1987, and we express our sincere apology to Canadians for any distress or pain his appointment may have caused,” reads the statement, which was first issued to Forward, a Jewish news organization.

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Savaryn died in 2017 and as part of the constitution of the Order of Canada his award was automatically rescinded. He was also awarded Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee medals, and Rideau Hall is considering whether they can be rescinded.

Last week former Speaker Anthony Rota resigned after calling on the house to recognize Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old man from North Bay who also served with the Waffen SS.

“Mr. Hunka’s past involvement with the Waffen-SS and his recognition in the House of Commons have been a source of great concern to the Governor General,” reads the statement from Rideau Hall.

Rideau Hall said it is looking at the honours system, but also understands there may be future instances where something in a person’s past only comes to light after they are celebrated, and it is prepared to use the termination policy.

“The Chancellery is committed to working with Canadians to ensure our honours system is reflective of Canadian values. Historical appointments to the Order of Canada reflect a specific moment in time and would have been based on limited information sources available at that time.”

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