"Not just a Ukrainian problem": Over 1,000 expected at Ukraine rally in Vancouver

Feb 26 2022, 7:16 pm

An anti-war rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery is expected to attract nearly 1,000 supporters of Ukraine from all over the city on February 26, giving people a space to unite in community and condemnation of the Russian invasion.

Iryna Shyroka with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Vancouver helped organize it, and is looking forward to the well-attended event.

She hopes governments around the world hear them as they march.

“It’s very heartwarming to see we have so many supporters because it’s not just Ukrainians we need support from at the rally,” she says.

A smaller rally is also happening in New Westminster on February 26, and several online prayer and support events have been scheduled for those who can’t make it to an in-person event.

The first half hour at the Vancouver Art Gallery will include speeches while people arrive. When they’re done, they’ll move to Canada Place and then march around the downtown core.

The leader of the Liberal Party of BC Kevin Falcon and numerous Members of Parliament will be speaking there, as well as Iranian community activist Amir Bajehkiam. 

Other guests include Minister Bruce Ralston, MLA David Eby, and MP Taleeb Noormohamed.

Vancouver Police will be there to help control crowds and mitigate any provocations. 

“You’re so far away from your family and friends and you feel helpless, but on the other hand, there’s so much you can do. You can always donate to other resources,” says Shyroka, to people who can’t attend.

“You can also write your Member of Parliament and ask for more military support to help Ukraine.”

Shyroka’s organization helped set up a fund to support people living through the war as well.

She hopes to see everyone else who can make it there.

“Come to the streets and raise your voice and speak up because it really helps, especially when you’re full of emotions,” she says. 

“Ukraine alone can not stand up against Russia’s millions in the army. We’ve been successful for now, but this is not just a Ukrainian problem.”

People in Ukraine have been fighting for their independence for hundreds of years, she says, and are very resilient and strong. Even then, they need assistance to survive this attack.

Myroslav Petriw is also with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and acts as a board member. He helped organize the rally.

Petriw says they started making plans for the event even before the Russians officially invaded. 

“The afternoon before that, we had a little car rally showing the flags around Vancouver,” he says. 

“Just prior to that, we also knew we were going to do a bigger event on Saturday, which happens to be today, and now we’ve got a war.” 

Petriw wants to make sure Ukrainians are front-and-centre for provincial and federal governments moving forward.

“Ukraine’s going to need assistance of all kinds, everything from weaponry to medical assistance. That is the big need: Air defence,” he says.

“Ukrainians have been clobbered with missiles; the latest number I have is 160 of them have been fired on the Ukraine.”

He continues, “Another thing Canada should be supplying is infantry weaponry, everything from helmets to body armour to guns.”

And that number is likely an underestimation, he says.

Excluding Russia from SWIFT — the Russian banking system — is one outcome he’s pushing for.

To meet these aims and more, Petriw hopes tons of people come out to the rally and demonstrate safely.

“For the press to pay attention, you need a whole lot of people or a whole lot of blood. We’re not going to have blood today, but we will have a whole lot of people,” he says.

“Through the media, we can get attention of the government more easily than going through media directly. Once things become a big deal in the media, the government pays attention.”

Both Petriw and Shyroka have high hopes for the rally and the future of their home country.

Aly LaubeAly Laube

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