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University of Alberta closes endowment fund named after Nazi veteran recognized in the House of Commons

The University of Alberta is apologizing for having an endowment fund provided by Yaroslav Hunka, the Nazi veteran recognized in Parliament last week.

The Hunka family gave $30,000 to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the school in 2019 for the Yaroslav and Margaret Hunka Ukrainian Research Endowment Fund.

In a statement to CTV News on Wednesday night, the U of A said it had decided to close the endowment.

"Following the introduction of Yaroslav Hunka on September 22 in the Canadian House of Commons, the university began a review of a $30,000 endowment fund that existed in Mr. Hunka’s name," wrote Dr. Verna Yiu, the U of A's provost and vice-president (academic).

"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. The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused."

Yiu says the university is in the process of reviewing its general naming policies and procedures, including those for endowments, to make sure they align with the school's policies.

Hunka, 98, fought for a volunteer unit under Nazi command during World War II.

On Friday, he received a round of applause in Ottawa during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now apologized on behalf of parliament, and House Speaker Anthony Rota resigned as a result of the scandal.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies (FSWCHS) says this isn't the only endowment fund or tie the university has with people previously involved with Nazis.

"We're glad that they've cancelled the endowment, but unfortunately, this is only one example of endowments at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies named after members of the Waffen-SS," Dan Panneton said.

"It's good that they've taken this specific one down, but it's only the tip of the iceberg."

Panneton says former U of A chancellor Peter Savaryn was a member of the Waffen-SS.

Savaryn was U of A chancellor from 1982 to 1986 and helped found the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the university.

He is also a member of the Order of Canada.

"We'd like to see them acknowledge that this history is real, that they've had people tied to the Waffen-SS unit involved with their university for many, many years. And yeah, an acknowledgement and apology," Panneton said.

CTV News Edmonton reached out to the U of A about the FSWCHS allegations. The university said it is reviewing other endowments. 

MONUMENT CONTROVERSY

A monument at an Edmonton cemetery is in the spotlight as a result of the Hunka controversy.

It was erected at St. Michael's Cemetery in north Edmonton in the 70s and honours the same unit Hunka was part of.

Edmonton's Jewish community has been calling for the monument, as well as a nearby bust of a Ukrainian military leader, to be removed for years.

Both the monument and the bust were vandalized with red paint and the words "Actual Nazi" in 2021.

CTV News reached out to the Catholic eparchy that owns the cemetery to ask if there are any plans to remove the monuments, but was told no one is available for comment.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was asked about the monuments on CTV's Power Play on Thursday.

Smith said while the monuments are on private property, she hopes the eparchy will reflect on the message they send and "do the right thing."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Miriam Valdes-Carletti and Jeremy Thompson 

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