Ottawa stands with Ukraine

Jeff Hunt (left), Andrii Bukvych (middle) and Jim Watson (right) pose for a picture at TD Place to launch the “Pay What You Can” initiative ahead of Atlético Ottawa’s home opener on April 9. CREDIT: CITY OF OTTAWA

By Jim Watson

I know that the people of Ottawa and Canadians across the country are horrified by the atrocities that we are witnessing in Ukraine as Russia continues to show a blatant disregard for the international rule of law, destroying peace and security in the region.

Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, while others stay and fight against the Russian occupation of their communities.

Ukrainian society is defined by a love of freedom and democracy, and I know we have all been inspired by the bravery of the citizens, soldiers and leaders of Ukraine.

I’m proud that Canada is home to the world’s third largest Ukrainian diaspora, with almost 1.4 million citizens of Ukrainian descent.

Canadians stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and we continue to do what we can to support those impacted by this growing humanitarian crisis.

A few weeks ago, I met with Andrii Bukvych, the chargé d’affaires at the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada, outside the Russian Embassy at the corner of Charlotte Street and Laurier Avenue, to put up street blades that read “Free Ukraine Libre” as a symbolic gesture of support for its people and as a daily reminder to those living at the embassy that Ottawa stands with Ukraine.

That same day, I wrote to Sean Fraser, the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to advise that the City of Ottawa is prepared to help in welcoming the eventual influx of refugees from across Ukraine.

Work and dialogue on this front are ongoing, and I want to thank the federal government for its collaboration to date. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Ottawa residents and businesses for their support from the very beginning.

While struggling to recover from the pandemic, residents and businesses in Ottawa are raising funds and donating proceeds from sales to the Canadian Red Cross and other organizations helping Ukrainians on the ground.

That’s the Canadian way – and I’m so proud of it.

A great example of the community coming together to support Ukrainian relief efforts was Atlético Ottawa’s “Pay What You Can” initiative at their April 9 home opener in the Canadian Premier Soccer League at TD Place that supported the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

Sporting a special yellow and blue kit to honour Ukraine’s national flag, Atlético Ottawa defeated Cavalry FC 1-0 in front of an enthusiastic crowd that braved the cold weather – a great start to the season!

Once again, thanks to the people of Ottawa for their generous support of local and international causes. We can always count on you!

Jim Watson is the mayor of Ottawa.

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