Ukraine and Ukrainians worldwide marked 31 years since the Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This year’s celebration took on a new significance, as the value of Ukraine’s independence and national self-determination is being defended with blood and immense human sacrifice. In Toronto, the League of Ukrainian Canadians (LUC) and the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women (LUCW) organized an official Ukrainian flag-raising event in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park. The event was organized under the auspices of the Consulate General of Ukraine in Toronto and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Ontario Provincial Council. It was attended by members of the Ukrainian community, as well as politicians at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. During the speeches many of the politicians greeted the crowd with the patriotic “Slava Ukraini” or “Glory to Ukraine!”

The program began with an ecumenical prayer delivered by the Very Rev. Father Bohdan Choly of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada, Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada and the Very Rev. Father Vasyl Kobrii of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, Eastern Eparchy.

This was followed by opening remarks from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, MPP for Wellington-Halton Hills, Honorable Ted Arnott. Speaker Arnott has supported the Ukrainian-Canadian community in his riding through the recently organized summer camp program for children arriving from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Youth Organization CYM hosted over 400 children extending its life-altering “Veselka” camp experience to a new generation.

Following this, Christine Hogarth, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario; Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina—Fort York of the Ontario New Democratic Party; Mitzie Hunter, MPP for Scarborough—Guildwood of the Ontario Liberal Party; and Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph representing the Green Party of Ontario delivered greetings and expressed their support for Ukraine and its people who are bravely defending their homeland against Russia’s genocidal war.

The talented choir “Crescendo” of the Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada CYM, Toronto Branch, with Pavlo Fondera conducting, sang the Ukrainian patriotic march “Oy u luzi chervona kalyna – Oh the Red Viburnum in the Meadow” followed by the national anthems of Ukraine and Canada. During Ukraine’s national anthem, members of the Ukrainian Youth Association CYM, Mississauga and Etobicoke Branches, as well as members of the Ukrainian Youth Association Plast raised the flag and stood on guard.

After the performance, the Master of Ceremonies Andrew Shwec invited Oleksandr Shevchenko, the Consul General of Ukraine in Toronto, to deliver his greetings on behalf of the Government of Ukraine. He thanked the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario and City of Toronto for staying shoulder to shoulder with our [Ukrainian] soldiers, with our young and old in building a new Ukraine while fighting back the invader. The Consul General addressed the current war efforts, commending the valour of the Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, and concluding his speech with a positive message that the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson are Ukrainian and will be liberated to regain their status.

The MP for Etobicoke Centre and Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, Yvan Baker, extended his congratulations on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the organizers and acknowledged the immeasurable contributions of Ukrainians to Canada. MP Baker spoke about the importance of protecting democracy, a lesson which was passed on to him by his grandfather Ivan. Melissa Lantsman, MP for Thornhill of the Conservative Party of Canada and Vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as Lindsay Mathyssen, MP for London-Fanshawe of the New Democratic Party of Canada and Deputy House Leader and Critic for National Defence addressed the participants and underlined how Canada will continue supporting Ukraine.

Vice President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Ontario Provincial Council, Irene Schumylo-Newton, spoke of the historical importance of connecting Russia’s genocide perpetrated against the Ukrainian people during the Holodomor in 1932-1933 with the continuation of Russia’s genocidal war on Ukraine today.

The event was concluded by an address from the Executive Director of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, Orest Steciw, who thanked everyone for their contribution in making the event a success, and reaffirmed the importance of Canada’s recognition of the Ukrainian people’s great sacrifice on the arduous road to freedom, as well as Canada’s support for an independent, democratic, secure and prosperous Ukraine. He added that Russia is an existential threat to Ukraine, and indeed Europe and the free world. Therefore, Canada and Ukraine must move forward together in stopping Russia by imposing harsher sanctions, and by timely providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces with additional much-needed weapons systems.

Photographs courtesy of photographer Mykola Swarnyk see here: https://www.lucorg.com/advocacy