Montreal demonstration marks two-year anniversary of Ukraine war

Protesters continue advocating in support of Ukraine

Demonstrators held up signs condemning Russia’s attacks on civilians during the march. Photo Miguel Fowke-Quinas

Hundreds of Montrealers took to the streets on Feb. 24 to commemorate the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Event organizers and participants called for Canadians to continue supporting Ukraine in the face of a renewed Russian war effort, saying that nothing can be accepted short of a Ukrainian victory. 

Starting at the intersection of Guy and Ste. Catherine St., the march passed through twelve intersections.

The march finished at Phillips Square. A prayer was then delivered for the over 30,000 combatants and over 10,000 civilians killed in the two years of conflict, followed by speeches from Ukrainian community leaders.

“I've had friends who've lost their lives,” said Ukrainian community journalist Vasyl Pawlowsky. He added that he is especially saddened by stories of parents losing their children. 

Pawlowsky’s godson returned to Ukraine from the Czech Republic where he was working when the war broke out. “I said, ‘What are you doing at home?’ and he said, ‘I had to return home. I have to give arms that I have hidden in the basement to my brothers,’” he said.

Also in February and March, ten years ago, Russia annexed Crimea in violation of international law. Later in April 2014, war broke out in the Donbass region of Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the armed forces of Ukraine. 

“[We are] gathered to stand in support of the Ukrainian people who are fighting against a Russian aggressor for now ten years, including during the last two years in a genocidal war that was launched by Russia” said Eugene Czolij, the honorary consul of Ukraine in Montreal. 

Czolij believes that the Montreal community and all civil society across the world should encourage their governments to give Ukraine maximal support and especially air defense to stop the destruction of civilian infrastructure. 

Ukrainian activist Mariia Zaborovska shared Czolij’s sentiments. “We need to remind the whole world that the war is still happening ... Every day that military aid is not given, there are extra lives that are taken by the Russians.”

A total of 38 demonstrations to mark the anniversary took place in cities across Canada, all organized by the Ukrainian Congress of Canada (UCC). The UCC’s policy priorities include supporting democratic reform in Ukraine and strengthening Canada-Ukraine defence relations

Alongside Czolij were numerous federal, provincial and municipal politicians showing their solidarity for the eastern European nation. Such notable attendees included Lac-Saint-Louis MP Francis Scarpaleggia and Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard.

In Kyiv on Feb. 24, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside other G7 leaders, signed a $3 billion assistance package in a show of support for Ukraine.

On Feb. 22, Quebec’s National Assembly acknowledged the approaching anniversary of the war. Elected officials unanimously supported a motion to reaffirm Quebec’s solidarity with Ukraine.

The motion also called for the eastern European nation to recover all territories annexed by Russia over the course of the conflict. 

Speaking before the crowd at Phillips Square, Czolij said these demonstrations are meant to keep Ukraine on the minds of Canadians, especially those who are skeptical about continuing to offer support to Ukraine.

If Ukraine is defeated, he explained, and Russia continues on its campaign into other eastern European countries, “Ukrainians are not going to be the only ones paying the ultimate price.”