Toronto

Thousands march in downtown Toronto against Russian invasion of Ukraine

Thousands of people marched in downtown Toronto on Sunday to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's deputy prime minister, addresses crowd in Nathan Phillips Square

Thousands of people marched in downtown Toronto and gathered at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Thousands of people marched in downtown Toronto on Sunday to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The event, billed as a "Mega March for Ukraine," began at Yonge-Dundas Square. It was organized by the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Demonstrators marched west on Dundas Street West, then south on Bay Street to Nathan Phillips Square. Speakers addressed thousands of people who gathered in the square.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's deputy prime minister and a Toronto MP who walked at the front of the march, told the rally that Ukraine needs weapons and ammunition to fend off the Russian invasion.

"The Ukrainians are making such a brave stand but they need weapons to fight this fight," Freeland said.

WATCH: Some of the participants in the 'Mega March for Ukraine':

Protesters in support of Ukraine speak out about why they’re demonstrating

4 months ago
Duration 1:12
Thousands of people marched in downtown Toronto on Sunday to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The event, billed as a "Mega March for Ukraine," began at Yonge-Dundas Square. It was organized by the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Freeland said she is proud that the Canadian government donated lethal weapons to Ukraine before the invasion and that Canada and its allies will continue to support the Ukrainian war effort.

"I think all of us today should let the people of Ukraine know, the leaders of Ukraine know, how much we admire them, that we know that they are fighting for all of us. They are fighting for our values. They are fighting for our democracy as well as their own," she said.

"I bow my head to them, to their courage, their resilience, just how smart they are."

Thousands of people marched in downtown Toronto on Sunday to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Grant Linton/CBC)

James Bezan, a Manitoba MP who also addressed the crowd, said Canadians stand united with Ukraine. He said the invasion could possibly lead to a genocide in Ukraine and the international community needs to play its part to stop the war.

"We need to keep ramping up those sanctions until we break Russia's financial back," he said.

Bezan called on the Canadian government to recall its ambassador in Russia and to expel the Russian ambassador from Canada. He said Russia should be kicked out of the G20 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, while Russian President Vladimir Putin should be taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands because of war crimes.

"Let's remember there's a special place in hell for Vladimir Putin," he said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Canadian author Margaret Atwood were also there to show support for Ukraine.

During the march, the crowd chanted: "Stand with Ukraine!"

The marchers held blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and placards denouncing Putin. One read: "Putin, hands off Ukraine now, no war."

There was also a marching band playing music.

Nataliya Halych, a Toronto resident at the rally, says: 'The entire world has to get united these days because Ukraine is fighting not just for the Ukrainian people, not just for our beautiful country, which is in the very heart of Europe. Today, we are fighting for the entire world, for everybody who cherishes freedom, democracy, human rights and our democratic world.' (CBC)

Nataliya Halych, a Toronto resident at the rally, said she is proud to be Ukrainian. Her mother and one of her nephews are still in Ukraine. They are safe for now but they hear sirens every day, she said. Ukraine, which is strong and brave, needs the world's help, she added.

'Right now, we have to protect our independence'

"The entire world has to get united these days because Ukraine is fighting not just for the Ukrainian people, not just for our beautiful country, which is in the very heart of Europe. Today, we are fighting for the entire world, for everybody who cherishes freedom, democracy, human rights and our democratic world," she said.

"We are a peaceful people. In the long history of Ukraine, Ukraine has never invaded any countries. We have been fighting and protecting our right to live. Right now, we have to protect our independence."

Iuliia Smrinova, a Russian in Toronto, held up a sign at the rally that read: "I am Russian, I am full of pain, Stop Putin, Stop War."

"I have been crying every day because I hate my government. I feel guilty. That's why I'm here," she said.

Toronto police had closed Dundas Street West from Yonge Street to Bay Street, and Bay Street from Dundas Street West from Queen Street West, but the roads have since reopened.

People in downtown Toronto are waving Ukrainian flags as they protest the Russian invasion of the country. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)
A young boy sits on a man's shoulders as people gather in Yonge-Dundas Square before a march for Ukraine. (Grant Linton/CBC)
Marchers held placards denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Grant Linton/CBC)
People crowded into Nathan Phillips Square to show support for Ukraine. (Grant Linton/CBC)
People gathered around the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square to hear speakers express support for Ukraine. (Grant Linton/CBC)

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp

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