Although they belted out Canada’s National Anthem, many people at a protest at Place du Canada downtown Montreal had their minds somewhere else.
“What we want to do is send a message, first to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, a message of solidarity,” explained Michael Shwec, protest organizer and president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Several of the protesters have family in Ukraine where Russian forces continue to advance, and the demonstrators said they are worried, terrified.
“Since Thursday when the attack began, this is all we’ve been thinking about,” said protester Alexander Prigozhin from Ukraine, and said he still has cousins in that country. “We feel a bit helpless.”
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He and other people at the rally described the conditions that their families are enduring in Ukraine as horrifying.
“It’s hell on earth there in many areas,” Shwec told Global News. “Putin bombed the whole country pretty much.”
There have been daily demonstrations in this city and across Canada since the Russian invasion.
Protesters say coming together like this helps to set their minds at ease, but that a collective voice also helps to underscore how dire the situation is.
Christina Hruby pointed out that it’s important to keep speaking out.
“We’re here to ask Canada and anybody who can help to please support them,” she stressed. “They need our help right now.”
In addition to sending lethal and non-lethal military hardware to Ukraine, Canada has joined the U.S. and other NATO countries in imposing a range of sanctions against Russia.
Today Canada’s government announced it is sending even more equipment and slapping on additional sanctions.
Some Canadian banks have also announced hundreds of thousands of dollars to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Those at today’s rally say they are moved by the help so far but more is needed from the international community.
“Probably the most important thing,” Shwec believes, is create a no-fly zone over Ukraine. I mean if you can stop the Russian bombers from bombing, people will live.
On Sunday, Canada closed its airspace to Russian aircraft, as have other countries.
People at Saturday’s protest expressed fatigue over the fighting and pray for an end to it. Until then, they plan to keep speaking out.