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Ukrainians across Canada rally against the Russian invasion

A group of demonstrators, holding signs in Ukrainian and in English, saying "#STAND WITH UKRAINE," "PRAY FOR UKRAINE" and "STOP WAR."
Chrystia Freeland
Canada Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (center) stands with demonstrators Sunday in Toronto.

Around the world, tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets to show their support for Ukraine, as it fights back against a Russian military invasion.

There were rallies this weekend in cities across Canada, which has the third largest population of people of Ukrainian origin in the world after Ukraine and Russia. The largest number in Canada is in Ontario, with more than 336,000 Ukrainians.

Many of them marched in downtown Toronto to show their support for family and friends in Ukraine.

On Saturday, they gathered in front of the Russian consulate. Hundreds waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted that an attack on Ukraine was an attack on the world.

By Sunday the crowds had swelled from hundreds to thousands, as people first gathered at a downtown square, then marched to Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall.

Julia Zaritsky and Svitlana Nechyporenko were two of the organizers of the Sunday rally. Both were fearful about the safety of family in Ukraine.

“I truly believe that each of Ukrainians now are the soldier, even if we are not in Ukraine, but we are soldiers. They need to leave their homes. They don’t have homes, they don’t have safety, they don’t have their life,” they said.

Among those to speak at the Toronto rally was Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, herself a Ukrainian Canadian.

"If Russia continues this barbaric war, the West is united, the West is relentless and we will cut the Russian economy off from our own,” Freeland said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has already taken action, by ordering all Russian beer and alcohol removed from shelves at government-run liquor stores in Ontario, the largest single buyer of Russian alcohol.

“The world has to unite," Ford said. "We have to make sure we go after the source of income. All the trade that we do in Russia, we will be in contact with our federal counterparts. We’re going to throw everything we have at them.”

Ford said Ontario will also help Ukrainians who want to leave their homeland for safety.

"What’s important is to expedite the process to get as many people from Ukraine that have fled to other countries, predominantly Poland, to come here and to make sure that they know that they’re welcome, make sure that they know that we have a group, that when they settle here we’re going to be here to support them and the community is going to be there to support them," he said.

On Sunday, Canada, following the lead of other countries, closed its airspace to Russian aircraft operators. Ottawa has also said it will send $25 million worth of helmets, body armor, gas masks and night vision equipment to the Ukrainian military. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly also said Canada would send more.