• Darrow Woods

Ukrainians are showing what it means to fight back against tyranny

By raising their voices and opening their wallets, ordinary Canadians can help put pressure on the Putin government
Demonstrators condemn Russian aggression during a recent protest near the Ukrainian Consulate in Toronto. DREAMSTIME IMAGE

Words like “tyrant” and “freedom” have been trivialized by over-use in recent weeks. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a harsh reminder of how actual tyrants behave and what it really means for people to fight for their freedom.

My mother’s people came to the Canadian Prairies, to what would become the province of Saskatchewan, seeking freedom and space to build new lives. They settled near Canora and cleared farmland that is still in the family.

It is estimated that one in 10 people in Saskatchewan trace their roots back to settlers from Ukraine. Across Canada it’s about one in 25 — according to the 2016 census there are 1,359,655 of us.

One of the most famous Ukrainian-Canadians was the late Alex Trebek, beloved host of Jeopardy. Others include Rick Danko, bassist and singer for The Band, and guitarist Randy Bachman of Guess Who and BTO fame.

Ukrainian-Canadians have contributed to the growth and success of Canada in many other ways. The current deputy prime minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, is of Ukrainian descent, as is Rona Ambrose, who served as the interim Conservative Party leader from 2015 to 2017.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, 677,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries. Another half million people are estimated to have been internally displaced by the growing conflict.

What can ordinary Canadians do to help these people in their struggle for safety and freedom?

Reach out to members of Parliament, particularly to those in the opposition parties, and ask them to support the efforts of our government to help Ukraine and also to welcome refugees. Since Jan. 19, our country has approved 4,000 applications from Ukrainians seeking to come here — those numbers are sure to rise. Immigration is often a hot-button topic but this is a time to set aside partisan views.

Consider donating to a credible organization that is working with the government of Ukraine to deliver humanitarian aid on the ground. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is an 80-year-old umbrella organization made up of national, provincial and local groups across Canada. They have a local branch in Windsor. Learn more about their work, including their current advocacy and fundraising efforts, at www.ucc.ca.

Support diplomatic and economic efforts to isolate and put pressure on the government of Russia while at the same time not demonizing the Russian people or those of Russian descent who are our neighbours and friends here in Canada.

During the First World War, Ukrainian-Canadians were imprisoned by the federal government and stripped of their land and property as well as their rights and freedoms because of fears they were loyal to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Similar terrible things were done to Japanese-Canadians and those of German descent in the Second World War.

As the global conflict with the government and leaders of Russia escalates, let us not repeat errors of the past.


Darrow Woods is the pastor at Harrow United Church. He lives in Kingsville.

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