Thousands of people gathered across Canada on Friday to mark 365 days of death and violence since Russia’s the invasion began in Ukraine.
Spearheaded by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, some 40 “Stand With Ukraine” events had been planned for major cities across the country, from St. John’s to Whitehorse.
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During a rally in Halifax, word of the added tanks drew loud applause from a crowd of about 200 gathered in the city’s central square next to City Hall.
Seventeen-year-old Polina Kozlova, a refugee who fled the city of Kherson after it was occupied, said she came to the ceremony to remember Ukrainians who have died – and to show solidarity with her homeland, where her parents and brother still live. .
“Even though it’s really cold today, I feel warm in my heart and soul because I’m with my people and I hear my native language and songs, and I feel the support of our nation,” she said.
A few hundred also braved cold weather in Montreal to gather in Dorchester Square. People carrying Ukrainian flags and candles chanted and sang in support of family members and friends in their homeland.
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“For me it was very important (to come here today) because I still have my family and my friends over there,” Vlada Polishchuk said.
“I also went to Ukraine in November and I saw with my own eyes what was happening in Ukraine. I stand here for the children I saw in Ukraine and for women who have gone through hell in occupied territory.”
Sebastien Bouffard said he has friends in Ukraine who he talks to every day and has become aware of the devastation the country has endured over the past year.
“They send me pictures, and what Russia is doing is disgusting. Sometimes I cry when I see the picture. I am 100 percent with Ukraine.”
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In Toronto, more than a thousand people marched through downtown before settling in front of City Hall, with many draping or waving the Ukrainian flag while others donned its bright blue and yellow colors. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also present.
Trudeau was met by protesters at the vigil who spewed angry rhetoric at him during his speech.
In response, he said: “This is a night for Ukrainians, not for you.”
“I think Ukrainians can talk a little about freedom and liberty, so why don’t you settle down. If you want to stand and cheer with Ukraine, do it. If you want to wave the Ukrainian flag, please do, but let people celebrate that Ukraine still stands and Canada stands with it.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called Putin “nothing but a tyrant” and a “thug” and said his war has revealed the strength and resilience of Ukrainians.
Minister of Defence Anita Anand said Canada began training Ukrainian troops in 2015 and has trained over 35,000 since then.
“We will continue. We have trainers in England and Poland right now training members of the Ukrainian armed forces to fight and win this unjust and illegal war,” she told the crowd.
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International student Simran Chawla, who attended the rally, said, “You have to help people who are in trouble … I feel like Canada is getting that message.”
At a press conference in Kiev on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters that more weapons will enable the Ukrainian people to regain their territory.
“We are preparing. We are ready in spirit. And we are getting ready in terms of weapons, in terms of forming assault brigades,” Zelenskyy said through a translator.
The year-long conflict has taken a deadly toll on the Ukrainian population, with tens of thousands of civilians killed and millions more displaced.
With weapons and training from NATO nations and other allies, Ukraine’s military has been able to retake thousands of square kilometers of territory.
— With files from Global News’ Irelyne Lavery. With files from Michael Tutton in Halifax, Marisela Amador in Montreal, Tyler Griffin in Toronto
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