TORONTO - As the conflict escalates overseas, Ukrainian Canadians continue to hold demonstrations to denounce Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Over the weekend, thousands of people with ties to Ukraine gathered at several rallies across the GTA to show support for the country.
Canada is home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora. It is estimated that over 1.3 million inhabitants of Ukrainian decent reside in Canada, of which more than 336,000 live in Ontario alone.
Ahead of Sunday’s scheduled march at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto, supporters demonstrated outside the Ukrainian Consulate General headquarters on Lakeshore Blvd in Etobicoke. They held signs that spoke out against the Russian aggression and waved Ukrainian flags to show support for the people in Ukraine.
Similar scenes were repeated all over the city including Nathan Philips Square and in the heart of Mississauga. On Friday, Mayor Bonnie Crombie gathered with Members of Council, MPs and MPPs along with members of the Ukrainian community to raise the Ukrainian flag at Mississauga’s City Hall as a sign of solidarity with the people of Ukraine and their loved ones. “With millions of others worldwide, we stand strongly behind the people of Ukraine as they fight for their country and freedom” Mayor Crombie stated, via Twitter.
The message echoed that of Chrystia Freeland, the deputy Prime Minster, who is of Ukrainian decent. Following the early morning invasion on February 24, Freeland called the barbaric Russian attacks “brutal and unprovoked”. She also called on fellow members of the community to show strength and support for those affected by the war. And, as the people of Ukraine continue to fight for democracy, Freeland remarked “we stand with them”.
Canada has since imposed a number of sanctions on Russia in response to the Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, following similar actions by the European Union, the UK and the United States. The latest sanctions announced Friday target Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a bid to suffocate the Russian regime.
The Canadian government also expressed strong support for removing Russian banks from SWIFT, a system for international bank payments. Prime minister Justin Trudeau explained that such actions “would make it even more difficult for President Putin to finance his brutalities”.
Meanwhile, as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Europe, the federal government announced Friday it will match donations made by Canadians to the Red Cross in aid for Ukraine, up to a maximum of $10 million. The policy applies to all donations under $100,000 to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal, made between February 24- March 18, to help those affected by the ongoing conflict in the country.
According to the Canadian Red Cross, the donated funds will address immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery and emergency preparedness in Ukraine, including the needs of those who are displaced.
The country remains under siege. As of Saturday, the UN refugee agency said an estimated 120,000 people have fled their home in Ukraine, with thousands more expected to flee as the situation deteriorates. They are headed to neighbouring countries like Poland, Hungary, Romanian and Slovakia in an attempt to escape the Russian invasion.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter