OTTAWA — Parliament will be lit up in blue and yellow Wednesday night to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day, when the prime minister, federal ministers, MPs and premiers paid tribute to Ukraine’s courage in the face of Russian aggression.
As some of the 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians celebrated the country’s 31 years as an independent nation, Trudeau paid tribute to her “bravery,” saying the “bonds that unite our peoples are unbreakable.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 15 people were killed Wednesday in a Russian missile attack on a Ukrainian train station.
Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991. The first post-independence Ukrainian banknotes were printed in Canada and Canadian legal experts helped Ukraine draft its constitution.
Canada has the second largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, with large communities across the country, including in Saskatchewan.
Scott Mow, the province’s premier, said Wednesday: “As Ukrainians fight to protect their independence today, know that Saskatchewan stands with you.”
In a park in Saskatoon, Ukrainian Canadians held a rally to mark 31 years of the country’s independence from Russian control.
Tetiana Lemon, a teacher at the Ukrainian Bilingual Bishop Filevych School, said Independence Day is “a reminder to the world of the resilience of Ukrainians, their sacrifices and their desire to preserve freedom and peace.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was among those attending the Independence Day event in Toronto, along with Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada.
Speaking at the event, Ford said that in the past six months, Ontario has welcomed more than 25,000 Ukrainians, including children, who can attend public schools for free.
“The relationship between Ukraine and Ontario has been strong for many decades and will continue to grow stronger,” he said.
Ukraine’s parliament declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, and the anniversary is celebrated every year.
This year, however, Ukraine also marks six months of war with Russia, and the event in Toronto includes a charity auction to raise funds for ambulances and evacuation vehicles in the war-torn country.
Among the items to be auctioned is part of a Russian missile that destroyed a training base near the Polish border.
Weeks before the missile struck, killing 43 people, Canadian personnel were training Ukrainian soldiers at the base.
Ambassador Yulia Kovaliv will open a multimedia exhibit at the event in Toronto on Wednesday, featuring footage of Ukrainians defending their country on the front lines.
In an interview, the ambassador revealed that he takes cellphone photos of blue and yellow pro-Ukraine signs in Canada, as well as flags flying in cities across the country, and sends them back to friends in Ukraine to illustrate Canadian support.
“It’s really amazing how we’re all coming together to oppose aggression and stand up for what’s right,” she said, adding that Ukraine was “very grateful” for Canada’s financial support, which has exceeded $1.87 billion .
Melanie Jolie, foreign affairs minister, Harjit Sajjan, international development minister, and Anita Anand, national defense minister, said in a statement that the past six months had been “extremely difficult for the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian communities abroad.”
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress stated that “since the beginning of Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian Canadian community has stood by its brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”
“During these incredibly difficult recent months, Ukrainian Canadians have supported Ukrainian civilians financially, represented Ukrainian interests in Canada and made incredible efforts to welcome and support refugees coming to Canada,” it said in a statement.