Canada to support Ukraine 'as long it takes, as much as it takes,' Trudeau tells Toronto rally
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told more than 1,000 people at a rally in downtown Toronto on Friday night that Canada will support Ukraine "as long it takes, as much as it takes" as Russia continues to wage war against the country.
Ukraine remains resilient against Russia and the Ukrainian flag still flies in its capital Kyiv, despite a year of brutal war, Trudeau said in Nathan Phillips Square, a public square in front of Toronto city hall.
"You have proven that victory is the only option," Trudeau said to cheers.
"Here in Canada, we believe in a free and sovereign democracy. We stand up to bullies and we will stand with Ukraine with everything it takes, for as long as it takes, until we see peace return to Ukraine."
The rally was held one year after Russia invaded its neighbour. It was one of about 300 such rallies held in cities around the world. Trudeau said more than 167,000 Ukrainians have come to Canada since the start of the war to seek safety.
"We are all inspired by the courage and tenacity of those who stayed behind to defend Ukraine," he added.
At one point, Trudeau replied to somebody who heckled him: "Hey sir, I think Ukrainians can tell you a little bit about freedom and liberty. So why don't you settle down? This is a night for them, not for you.
"If you want to stand and cheer with Ukraine, do that. If you want to wave that Ukrainian flag, please do. But let people celebrate that Ukraine is still standing and Canada stands with it. "
Earlier on Friday, Trudeau said the Canadian government is providing Ukraine with more weapons, including four additional Leopard 2 main battle tanks, bringing Canada's contribution to eight tanks. Canada will also donate an armoured recovery vehicle and over 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
At the rally, Trudeau said Canadian soldiers have trained more than 35,000 Ukrainians.
For his part, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told the crowd that the province has provided more than 60,000 Ukrainian refugees with housing, health care, education and help with finding jobs.
"We are here together to show the world that the people of Ontario stand with the people of Ukraine today and every day," Ford said.
"We will never ever waver in standing up against tyranny."
Toronto Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie told the rally the city supports Ukrainian refugees. She said the city has installed "Free Ukraine" street signs around the Russian consulate in Toronto..
"This illegal invasion on a sovereign and independent country is an affront to democracy everywhere," McKelvie said.
The Toronto sign is lit in blue and yellow to honour of Ukraine, she said.
"Too many lives have been taken by this war. We stand with you and we stand in support of you."
Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, said Ukraine will "always have a friend" in Canada.
"Thank you very much for your determination," Poilievre said.
Many Ukrainians who have fled were part of the gathering.
Earlier, the demonstrators marched from Yonge-Dundas Square to Nathan Phillips Square.
In Yonge-Dundas Square, people sang the Ukrainian national anthem, chanted slogans and waved Ukrainian and Canadian flags.
Ahead of the march, Trudeau went to St. Demetrius Catholic School in northwest Toronto, where he met with students, including some Ukrainian newcomers.
He told them he "understands it's a difficult day for them," according to a pool report from The Canadian Press.
Ukrainians still living in the country have told CBC News they feel like Feb. 24, 2022, is their "9/11 moment" — a temporal fork in the road that makes it obvious to everyone that the world has changed irrevocably.
Others are quick to point out the Russian invasion began not a year ago Friday but in 2014, with Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
Toronto raises flag in solidarity
A Ukrainian flag raising ceremony was held at Toronto city hall on Friday morning.
"This flag has been flying here non-stop in Nathan Phillips Square since the invasion began, and I am committed … to keeping it flying here to show our solidarity with Ukraine and our Ukrainian community," McKelvie said.
The war hits so close to home for so many Toronto residents, she added.
"Toronto has an incredible Ukrainian community who are hurting and who are terrified for their loved ones and for the future of Ukraine."
'Biggest conflict' since WWIl
Oleksandr Shevchenko, the Ukrainian consul general in Toronto, told those at the flag-raising ceremony that on Feb. 24, 2022, Russia "unleashed a full-scale war against our country.
"It has become the biggest conflict since the Second World War, with many innocent lives lost, cities destroyed, and people fleeing their homes to escape the terror, leaving everything they had behind," Shevchenko said.
But Russia's biggest miscalculation was to underestimate "the resolve and determination of the Ukrainian people," he added.
"It is the unbreakable spirit of the men and women in the front lines and in the rear, who under the missile and drone attacks without power, water and heating, stand firm and resolute, crushing day by day Russia's military machine."