Canada selects first Black House president

OTTAWA, Oct 3 (Reuters) – Canada’s House of Commons elected Greg Fergus as its new speaker on Tuesday, making the Liberal MP the first black Canadian to hold the position after its previous speaker resigned over unknowingly inviting a former Nazi soldier into Parliament.

Members of the 338-seat council voted for Fergus in a secret ballot. Fergus came ahead of candidates including fellow Liberal MP Sean Casey, Conservative Chris D’Entremont and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“Today, you are the first Black Canadian to serve as speaker,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “It should be inspiring to all Canadians, especially younger generations who want to participate in politics.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of parliamentary procedures, and seeks to maintain order and decorum during debates. The Speaker of Parliament votes only to break a tie, and plays a ceremonial role as the institutional representative of Parliament.

Former Parliament Speaker Anthony Rota, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, resigned last week. He took full responsibility for inviting Jaroslav Honka, 98, a Polish-born Ukrainian who served in one of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS units during World War II, to the House of Representatives when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on September 22.

Without knowing Hunka’s full background, Ruta publicly recognized him as a veteran of Ukraine and a hero who immigrated to Canada, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to formally apologize for his mistake last week.

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The speaker’s role comes with a salary increase of about C$93,000 (US$68,000) per year, on top of the legislator’s C$194,600 base salary, and an official country estate in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills.

($1 = 1.3665 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Shearer and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa – Preparing by Jibril for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Deba Babington

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