At Kozak Ukrainian Eatery in New Westminster, BC, a jar sits next to the cash register and displays one Ukrainian flag. A few loose coins are inside.

Behind the counter, as the aroma of freshly baked pastries and simmering borscht wafts from the kitchen, Yana Naida doesn’t ask for a donation or acknowledge the jar. She smiles, thanks the customers for their purchases and continues with her work.

The 19-year-old university student fled the Ukrainian city of Ternopil, outside Lviv, three months after Russia began her invasion on February 24, 2022. She came to Canada not only because she knows English – it’s her major – but also because she knows that the money she makes from Kozak will go a long way back home.

“For two dollars you can pay for a soldier’s dinner,” she told Global News in an interview.

“I’m just much more useful here.”

Naida says she has noticed a drop in donations to Ukraine, both in that jar of the registry and in her other efforts to raise money for Ukrainian-based charities in recent months. But she has no doubt that Canadians, and the Western world in general, still support her country.

“People can only give so much, especially after they gave so much in the beginning,” she said. “But people will ask about it in the store, when they hear my accent, and I know they still care.”

“Canadians are where they need to be”

A year into the war — and with no end in sight — Canada and its Western allies are stressing the need to continue helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia, despite the mounting economic costs.

Ipsos survey from January suggests that people around the world remain supportive, even as some signs of weariness emerge. About two-thirds of respondents in 28 countries, including Canada, said they still follow news of the invasion closely, supporting accepting Ukrainian refugees and agreeing that doing nothing in Ukraine will encourage Russia to invade elsewhere.

However, support for refugees has fallen by seven points since March and April 2022, while the belief that Russia will be emboldened if Ukraine is ignored is down five points.

But the survey also suggests that Canadians are more willing to support Ukraine than most other countries surveyed. Canada was one of only three countries where a majority did not say their government could no longer afford to financially support Ukraine “given the current economic crisis” at home.

These sentiments appear to be growing in countries such as France, Germany, Poland and Japan, according to the survey.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives a standing ovation as he appears via video conference to address Parliament, in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang.


Canadians polled were also more supportive of economic sanctions against Russia, despite the impact on gas and food prices, and even the deployment of NATO forces to nations surrounding Ukraine.

The persistent support is also felt in the halls of the Riksdag. Unlike in the US, there a sizable group of Republicans openly questioning sending more aid to Ukraine, politicians from all parties in Canada have been largely supportive.

“Canadians are where they need to be in terms of supporting Ukraine … which is the basis of that political support,” said Orest Zakydalsky, a senior policy adviser for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC).

Over the past year, the UCC, which represents the largest Ukrainian diaspora outside of Russia — nearly 1.4 million Canadians identify as Ukrainian — has lobbied the Canadian government to do whatever it can to help the war effort. That has included military, financial and humanitarian support, as well as expediting the entry of Ukrainians fleeing the war to seek temporary residency in Canada.

Ukrainian nationals fleeing the ongoing war in Ukraine arrive at Trudeau Airport in Montreal, Sunday, May 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.


To date, Canada has given over $5 billion to Ukraine, including more than $1 billion in military equipment and support.

The federal government has also paid nearly $290 million in direct financial assistance to Ukrainians arriving in Canada, and established a $500 million Ukrainian Sovereignty Bond to allow Canadians to essentially invest in Ukraine’s survival.

“In terms of financial aid, Canada has in some ways been a leader,” Zakydalsky said.

But he adds that Canada still needs to do more, including further economic sanctions against Russia and the numbers that support the war and peddle disinformation.

He also wants a firm commitment from the government to extend the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, which expedites the entry of Ukrainians and their families fleeing the war into Canada, beyond the current March 31 deadline.

“It creates some concern both in our society and among Ukrainians in Europe and Ukraine that the program may end,” he said.

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Deputy Prime Minister Freeland greets the first flight of Ukrainian refugees in Winnipeg

Since January 2022, 167,585 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada, including CUAET applicants and returning Canadian permanent residents. Over half a million applications through the CUAET program have been approved.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement to Global News that it continues to “closely monitor the ongoing needs of Ukrainians,” but would not say whether the CUAET program will be extended. The agency added that some of the approved applicants who have not come to Canada have chosen to stay closer to home instead.

“We’re working very hard … to make sure people have some normalcy in life,” Zakydalsky said, pointing to local efforts to help newly arrived Ukrainians navigate filing their taxes, learning English and getting driver’s licenses. “This (uncertainty about CUAET) makes that work difficult.”

What happens to military support?

Zakydalsky is also pushing Ottawa to follow suit with the rest of NATO and continue to increase its military aid to Ukraine, including more advanced weapons and equipment.

But experts say that could prove difficult in the war’s second year.

“I think what this war has revealed are the limits of Canada’s military and Canada’s overall power,” said Andrew Rasiulis, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former official at the Department of National Defence.

After weeks of requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the West to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks, Canada last month donated four of the 112 currently owned by the Canadian Armed Forces, which includes 82 intended for combat.

Defense Minister Anita Anand left the door open to sending even more tanks in the future, although she also stressed the need to ensure the Canadian army has enough heavy weapons to train and defend the country and its NATO allies.

Rasiulis suspects that means Canada will still have to hold on to its remaining tanks to fulfill its commitment to upgrade the 2,000-strong battle group it leads in Latvia to a brigade, which will involve adding troops and equipment.

Canada’s military, along with other Western nations, is also facing a recruiting crisis that Chief of Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre has told Global News worries him about the “collective ability to defend democracy at large.”

“I’m worried, but I’m also worried about the wider West,” he said last month in an interview with Western quarter.

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While it is supposed to add about 5,000 soldiers to regular and reserve forces to meet a growing list of demands, the military instead has fewer than 10,000 trained members — meaning about one in 10 positions are currently vacant.

In addition to the shortage of recruits, the Canadian military continues to face long-term challenges in acquiring new equipment, maintaining aging equipment and tracking down spare parts.

One area where the military doesn’t seem to have a recruiting problem is its cybersecurity force, which has been tasked with combating Russian cyberattacks and other forms of online warfare since before the invasion began.

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The head of that cyber force, Riksadm. Lou Carosielli, told a parliamentary committee this month that his team has met recruiting goals for the past three years. It has allowed the Canadian armed forces to establish a cyber task force to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian hackers, and another as a permanent part of the Latvia brigade.

“The threat is not limited to Ukraine alone,” Carosielli said, noting that the Latvian cyber force is helping the country and other European allies in the cyber security sphere.

More recently, Canada’s military contributions to Ukraine have largely focused on contracting and purchasing equipment from elsewhere rather than donating from its own stockpiles. This has included the acquisition of over 200 armored vehicles from Mississauga-based Roshel and the purchase of an American-made air defense system at a cost of $406 million.

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Rasiulis says that will likely be the strategy going forward, while placing greater emphasis on additional economic and humanitarian aid and bolstering Western support for other initiatives such as prosecuting Russian war crimes.

“That’s where Canada, politically, would be best placed and I think that’s where they’re now moving,” he said.

“Canada is still a peacetime economy. And that means … money is always a constraint. But maintaining the moral high ground is important and also cost-effective.”

Back in New Westminster, Naida says she will continue to send a significant portion of her salary to a few choose charities in Ukraine focused on military aid, and others providing direct assistance such as meals, clothing and essential items to refugees fleeing the war-torn east.

Any additional help she gets from Canadians — whether it’s the government or the next customer entering Kozak — will be welcome, she adds.

“People have to live their own lives. I get it. I can’t ask for more,” she says. “We’re doing everything we can.”