Yuri Bilinsky, NP-UN.
On Sunday afternoon, Toronto saw the biggest Ukraine-related rally in Canada’s history. As many as 30 thousand people gathered at Yonge-Dundas and marched through downtown to Nathan Philips Square to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The demonstration was organized by the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress within a series of #StandWithUkraine events.
The rally reflected the international coalition against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Representatives of the Hong Kong, Tibetan, Uygur, Taiwanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian and other ethnic communities were present. ”Today we are all Ukrainians” was a common theme of many speeches which called for standing with Ukraine in its fight against the aggressor. Several speakers praised Canada’s response to the Russian aggression but requested more military aid and stronger sanctions against Russia, as well as refugee programs for the Ukrainian victims of war.
Among the speakers were Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Oleksandr Shevchenko, the Consul General of Ukraine in Toronto. Mayor John Tory, who was made “an honorary Ukrainian” by the organizers and renowned author Margaret Atwood were among the attendees.
In her speech, Chrystia Freeland promised to continue supporting Ukraine’s war effort. This promise materialized on the next day, Monday, when the Canadian government announced provisions of anti-tank weapons for Ukraine and the ban on imports of Russian oil. Freeland expressed admiration for the people and leaders of Ukraine: “We need to let them know that we know they are fighting for all of us, they are fighting for our democracy, as well as their own. I bow my head to them, to their courage, to their resilience, just how smart they are,” she said.
MP James Bezan, being one of the leaders of the official opposition, thanked the government and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland in particular, for their work in the process of banning Russia from the SWIFT system and for sanctioning individual Russian leaders. “We have to keep ramping the sanctions until we break Russia’s financial back,” he said. Bezan suggested expelling the Russian ambassador from Canada and withdrawing the Canadian ambassador from Russia. He also called for expelling Russia from all international organizations, including the UN, and isolating it on the world stage.
President of Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alexandra Chyczij said: “We must help Ukrainians fight to live another day so that they and the world can live to see the results of the sanctions so that Putin, and the Russian Federation, is brought to its knees. W need to send more weapons and we need to protect the beautiful blue skies of Ukraine.” She said that if Vladimir Putin is not stopped, he may “unleash Armageddon” and that’s why Canada and Ukrainian Canadian community need to continue helping Ukraine.
Several speakers, Alexandra Chyczij and Mayor of Mississauga Bonnie Crombie among them, repeated the call to NATO to declare and enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. There also were calls to support the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal established by UCC and Canada Ukraine Foundation.
President of UCC Toronto Petro Schturyn in his conclusive speech said that Putin is facing 40 million freedom fighters in Ukraine who “are going to fight to the very end … until every inch of Ukrainian soil is back to Україна that includes Donbas, that includes Crimea”.