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Thousands rally in Canada to support Ukraine

Many in the crowd were from Ukraine and have been calling friends and family every few hours
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Thousands of Canadians marched in rallies across the country over the weekend to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

EDMONTON -- Even though Andrea Willows' grandparents fled Ukraine in the years leading up to the Second World War, she still maintains contact with family in the country and worries about their safety.

Willows was among thousands of Canadians who marched in rallies across the country over the weekend to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and to call for strong action against Russia and its president.

"It makes me feel patriotic, that we're supporting something that's bigger than us, which is freedom," she said, speaking from the side of a busy downtown Edmonton thoroughfare where hundreds gathered on Sunday afternoon.

Many in the crowd, like Vitalii Haponiuk, were from Ukraine and have been calling friends and family every few hours.

"I'm worried about my parents. They live in a small town, but even there they heard Russian planes, Russian bombs. It's very scary," said Haponiuk, who came to Canada as a student three years ago, adding that rallies like the one in Edmonton alert the world to what is happening.

Similar scenes played out on Sunday in other cities across Canada, including Montreal, where an emotional Anya Dashe stood with her family and condemned Russia’s invasion. 

“I have my family who live there, my friends. … Today I was called by my father who said goodbye and apologized for everything … he thinks he’s gonna die today because there are multiple bombs going over my city,” the 17-year-old said. 

“My father told me today, there’s just bodies everywhere in the streets. I would never think Russia could do what they did.”

In Toronto, Yonge-Dundas Square teemed with people. Among them was Eugenia Khvostova, who has been in Canada for two years. Her eyes filled with tears as she spoke of worry for her parents, brother and friends in Ukraine. 

"I can't sit normally on my couch at home because my heart is there," she said. "I can't sleep. I'm trying to support them as much as I can because this is my motherland and they gave me everything. That’s why I'm here, I'm alive."

Khvostova said she hopes the Canadian government will offer more humanitarian and military support to Ukraine.

In Ottawa, Sunday's rally came as police continued with a heavy presence in the downtown core following a three-week occupation by a truck convoy protesting pandemic public-health restrictions.

Among those in the crowd was Ottawa resident Jordyn Kiteley, who came out to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people and voice her opposition to Russia's actions. Kiteley said she was surprised by the number of people present.

"I'm proud to be Canadian, especially after all the dumb convoy stuff we saw. … This is just overpowering to watch and to see how people are feeling about it, and that I'm not alone with this."

Winnipeg police estimate 2,000 people took part in a "Stand With Ukraine" rally at the Manitoba legislative grounds on Saturday evening, where Premier Heather Stefanson said she has told the federal government that her province will do everything it can to help Ukrainian refugees looking for a safe haven.

Stefanson said that will include working with Ottawa to expedite Ukrainian immigration applications to Manitoba's provincial nominee program.

"Here on the legislative grounds there is a monument recognizing the 1932 Holodomor, Josef Stalin's forced famine that killed millions of Ukrainians by starvation," said Stafanson, who was wearing a light blue coat and yellow scarf, the colours of Ukraine's flag.

"The Ukrainian people have suffered under the rule of an evil dictator before. Manitobans and all Canadians must do everything we can to make sure that never happens again."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, meanwhile, added his province to the list that's not accepting new stock of Russian-made liquor products and will not sell any current stock to retailers.

Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and British Columbia made similar announcements last week.

“Alberta stands in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine and we will support those fighting against tyranny any way we can," Kenney said in a news release Sunday.

"I encourage all Albertans to do what they can to support Ukraine by making a donation or supporting some of the many Ukrainian-Canadian-owned businesses in the province."

— with files by Allison Jones in Toronto and Virgine Ann in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2022.

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