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Thousands rally in Toronto to show support for Ukraine on 2nd anniversary of Russian invasion

Demonstrators at a rally in Toronto carry Ukrainian flags to show their support for Ukraine on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion. (Prasanjeet Choudhury /CBC - image credit)
Demonstrators at a rally in Toronto carry Ukrainian flags to show their support for Ukraine on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion. (Prasanjeet Choudhury /CBC - image credit)

Thousands of people rallied in a downtown Toronto square on Saturday to show their support for Ukraine on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion.

Several blue and yellow flags of Ukraine could be seen in the large crowd that gathered in Nathan Phillips Square in the cold for the Stand with Ukraine rally.

The rally, organized by the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, drew several elected officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Ford said the province will always stand with the people of Ukraine. He said the fight against Russia is not only a fight about land but also a fight for freedom and democracy.

"Do you know what the people of Ukraine need? They need weapons. They need ammunition. That's what they need. They need drones," Ford told the crowd.

Stand with Ukraine rally 2
Stand with Ukraine rally 2

A rally-goer holds up a sign at the Stand with Ukraine rally in Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday. (Submitted by Oksana Dub)

Ford said more than 126,000 Ukrainians have come to Ontario since 2022.

"The bonds between our two countries run deep," Ford said.

Russia launched a military invasion in Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine says it has verified that more than 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and nearly 20,000 have been injured in the conflict.

"The actual numbers are likely significantly higher," the mission says on its website.

"Millions across the country have lost their homes, been forced to flee, or endured other hardship due to lack of access to basic services as a result of the war," the mission continues.

The mission says hundreds of medical and educational institutions, along with critical infrastructure related to energy and grain export, have been damaged.

"Entire cities have been destroyed."

Stand with Ukraine rally 3
Stand with Ukraine rally 3

Singers at the rally sang Ukrainian songs in between speakers. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC)

'You are not alone,' Toronto mayor says

Chow, for her part, said Toronto welcomes Ukrainians who have fled war in their country. She said the city provides shelter for them and supports them.

"We are far from Ukraine, but our hearts are there," Chow said.

Chow said Toronto's sister city is Kyiv and Toronto is sending two ambulances, two sports utility vehicles and three generators to the Ukrainian capital.

Sixty children in Toronto, as well, have sent activity kits to Ukrainian children in Kyiv to give them hope in the hours of difficulty, she added.

"You are not alone. We in Toronto, in Ontario, Canada, will not let you down. Let's keep hope alive," Chow said.

Stand with Ukraine rally 5
Stand with Ukraine rally 5

A child holds a Ukrainian flag above the crowd in Nathan Phillips Square. (Prasanjeet Choudhury /CBC)

Singh, who also spoke at the rally, said Canadians are united in solidarity with Ukraine.

Singh said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal and has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and has caused the destruction of homes and communities.

"We mark this solemn anniversary with our commitment to reaffirm our ongoing solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine," he said.

Singh said Russia must be held accountable for its "egregious" violations of international law as it continues its war with Ukraine.

On its website, the Canadian government says it has provided more than $2.4 billion in military donations to Ukraine. The donations include eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks, with spare parts, ammunition and training.