A monument to the Ukrainian 14th SS division in the small town of Oakville, Ontario was vandalized around the 21st of June by unknown perpetrators who spray painted the words “Nazi war monument” across its surface.
The division, also known as the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galicia”, was formed out of ultra-nationalist Ukrainian volunteers who joined Hitler’s forces during Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Among the many crimes they allegedly perpetrated, the division is accused of carrying out the extermination of Jews, Polish people and other minorities.
The division was labelled a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials, but was not proven guilty of war crimes by any tribunal or commission, writes Second World War historian and War Crimes investigator Howard Margolian. Still, the discussion over the division’s role and extent of these crimes is a hotly debated topic among historians and politicians.
Canadian authorities initially treated the graffiti as a hate crime that “incites hatred against [an] identifiable group”, according to The Ottawa Citizen’s interview of Constable Steve Elms. Elms cited a Criminal Code section that states that statements in a public place inciting hatred against a specific group are an imprisonable offense. However, after a review of the case by the police and public backlash against the police’s apparent defense of a Nazi group, the case has been reduced to a vandalism investigation, writes The Guardian (Prince Edward Island).
Moss Robeson, an author and researcher of far-right movements in Ukraine and Ukrainian-Canadian communities, questioned the idea of how a hate group could be the subject of hate crimes. Similarly, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network criticized the police and advised them to be better informed on what constitutes a hate crime.
The Russian Embassy in Canada has also condemned Nazi memorials in Canada in a 2017 tweet, specifically citing the recently defaced monument in Oakville, Ontario and another to a Ukrainian Insurgent Army leader Roman Shukhevych in Edmonton. Like the the SS Division, Shukhevych is accused of the murder of thousands of Jews in Ukraine. Kirill Kalinin, press secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canada, stated that such monuments still exist in Canada and continue to venerate those who fought against the Red Army and Allied forces in the Second World War, reports The National Post.