‘We stand with Ukraine’: B.C. shows solidarity

Demonstrators showed up to the Vancouver Art Gallery on short notice Thursday to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As Kier Junos reports, people chanted, cheered, and shared gestures of solidarity.

The yellow and blue Ukrainian flags blanketed the area outside the Vancouver Art Gallery Thursday as a symbol of comfort at a time when many British Columbians fear for their loved ones back home.

Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the post-Cold War security order. Ukraine’s government pleaded for help as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

Despite the distance, people in B.C. with loved ones in Ukraine and allies sang and chanted in solidarity.

Natalie Escovitch with Ukrainian Canadian Congress BC says her parents are just 40 minutes from the border with Russia.

“My mother woke up last night at 5 a.m. Ukrainian time to the explosion sounds,” Escovitch told CityNews.

The devastation meant she could not wait any longer to show her support for her loved ones.

“We couldn’t wait any more moment … any minute because we cannot contain our pain. We cannot contain our anger. We cannot contain our frustration and we need to be together. We need to be together in these dark times for Ukraine.”

(Lasia Kretzel, CityNews photo)

Official Opposition House Leader and MLA for Kamloops – South Thompson, Minister Todd Stone was one of B.C.’s elected officials who put aside partisan politics at the Legislature to speak in a united voice in support of the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Stone addressed locals of Ukrainian descent who now call B.C. (the largest Ukrainian diaspora) home.

“We stand with you, and we share in your pain,” he said. “And to those with friends and loved ones who right now may have their lives in serious jeopardy in what was just 24 hours ago as a safe and free democratic nation, we stand with you and call for this to end.”

“To the people of Ukraine, we stand with you, and we condemn in no uncertain terms, this unprovoked Russian assault,” he added.

Like many British Columbians, Stone says he has strong ties to Ukraine and admitted he is fearful watching the tragic situation unfold in Eastern Europe.

“Last night, hearing reports of villages, towns and cities facing Russian artillery fire across Ukraine, I was devastated like so many other British Columbians and Canadians were as well. Villages like the one my great-grandmother called home and communities throughout Ukraine now face an old reality, echoes of the tragedies and struggles they faced 80 years ago. As I followed the news last night, and this morning, I knew I was joining people all across the world and watching the horror unfold — a war unfolding in Europe. A democracy of over 40 million people under siege.”

“I was struck by images of women and their children huddled clutching each other underground in subways, with not much more than likely whatever money they were able to grab and the clothes on their backs, with absolute fear in their eyes, as to what lay ahead,” he added.

Stone added British Columbians and the province need to be ready to help, saying it is not enough for people to condemn these acts from the sidelines.

“When our federal government responds to this blatant act of aggression in Ukraine, we are calling on the government of British Columbia to support Ottawa’s efforts,” he said.

“If part of our national response is severe economic sanctions, we are calling on this government to ensure their provincial jurisdiction over many aspects of our financial system does not impede in any way the efforts to impose concrete and thorough sanctions by our federal government. This is indeed a time when we must stand in solidarity against unchecked militarism and violations of the peaceful international order that so many have fought and died to secure.”

Canada and its allies responded to Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine with a barrage of new sanctions targeting the Russian economy and its leaders that they hoped would avert an all-out war.

“We have to strive towards a more hopeful future. Our collective actions during this crisis will define what that message will be to younger generations — to our kids and to everyone who lives in Ukraine or any country facing threats to their sovereignty,” Stone said.

“Today we stand with peace-loving people around the world with freedom and democracies with families wanting their youth to come home from conflict zones everywhere. Today, we stand with Ukraine.”

All provincial parties condemned the attack on Ukraine, including B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau who was brought to tears, gave a heartfelt and emotional speech.

“I think we can agree that on this, we are wholly in solidarity with each other and with the people of Ukraine. And wholly against the acts of violence and war that are unfolding right now. Condemnation is the right word for what is happening,” she said.

“As a child of somebody who grew up, who was born in October of 1939 in Europe, I tried to explain to my own child this moment that we’re in and how serious it is. Stability and certainty that has been eroded by this pandemic is now being further eroded by these illegal acts of war and violence. And in a time like this, we, in particular, as elected representatives in a democracy, have a burden that is enormous and serious and we must stand together for peace and democracy.”

B.C. Energy Minister and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston condemned what he called the “illegal and unnecessary war.”

“Make no mistake; this is one man’s war. The invasion has caused great distress among many British Columbians, especially for the many who have family and friends in Ukraine. Why should we in this house concern ourselves over war in a distant land? We do so because it is important for people in Ukraine, and Russia, and around the world to know that we stand with those who want to live in peace.”

Related Articles: 

For Olga Gogoleva, borders meant nothing when it came to showing support in Vancouver. She proudly waved a sign outside the Vancouver Art Gallery that read, ‘I am Russian, and I am against the war.’

“I’m a Russian citizen and I feel very embarrassed for the policy that my country is acting right now. And I’m against the war and I’m standing with Ukrainian people to stop it,” she said.

“I know that in my country, there is a lot of people who are fighting for freedom and most of them are unfortunately in jail. Most of them are losing the hope right now. But I still believe that it is possible to change.”

Inside Russia, authorities moved swiftly to crack down on any critical voices. OVD-Info, a group that tracks political arrests, reported 1,620 people in 52 Russian cities had been detained for protesting the invasion, more than half of them in Moscow.

Another rally is planned Saturday in the same location with people hoping they may have better news of loved ones in Ukraine.


With files from Liza Yuzda, The Canadian Press, and The Associated Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today