Zelensky’s Appeal to Canada: Imagine if Toronto Were Kyiv.


OTTAWA — In an emotional address to Canada’s Parliament on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his members to support his call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, asking them to imagine cities like Vancouver or Toronto being attacked, and calling for intensifying sanctions in the face of Russian aggression.

Mr. Zelensky called the invasion of Ukraine a war to “annihilate” his country. Repeatedly addressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada as “Justin,” he called on Mr. Trudeau to imagine Vancouver being under siege, to imagine Toronto’s famous CN Tower being hit by Russian bombs, to imagine children being killed and kindergartens being bombarded.

“This is our reality,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky asked that Canada and the world to do more to help defend Ukraine.

“We’ve been friends with you, Justin,” he said. “But also I would like you to understand — and I would like you to feel this — what we feel every day. We want to live, and we want to be victorious.”

The appeal to Canada’s Parliament followed a speech by Mr. Zelensky to the British Parliament last week during which he invoked Shakespeare and echoed Winston Churchill’s famous wartime words of no surrender. It underlined how the Ukrainian president, a former actor and comedian, has been seeking to galvanize global public opinion against Russia’s invasion by fashioning himself as a spokesman for liberal democracy, and by casting Russia as a violent threat to the global order.

Mr. Zelensky reiterated his call for countries to help Ukraine close its airspace to protect it from Russian bombardment. And he asked Canada’s large Ukrainian diaspora — at 1.4 million people, among the largest in the world — to rally behind their native country.

He was met with a standing ovation by members of Canada’s Senate and House of Commons, protracted and thunderous applause, and shouts of support.

“In Canada we like to root for the underdog,” Mr. Trudeau told the House of Commons ahead of Mr. Zelensky’s appearance, calling the Ukrainian leader a “hero of democracy.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with particularly visceral emotion in Canada, because of its large number of people with Ukrainian roots. They include the country’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freelandwhose mother was Ukrainian-Canadian.

Speaking after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Ms. Freeland, who studied for a time in Ukraine in the late 1980s, said that President Vladimir V. Putin had cemented his place “in the ranks of the reviled European dictators who caused such carnage in the 20th century.”

“The horrific human costs of this cruel invasion are the direct and personal responsibility of Vladimir Putin,” she said in a speech peppered with Russian and Ukrainian, adding, “To my own Ukrainian-Canadian community,” she said, “let me say this: Now is the time for us to be strong as we support our friends and family in Ukraine.”

Under the leadership of Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland, who speaks Ukrainian with her children at home, Canada has taken a strong stance against Russia. In late February, it unveiled financial sanctions against 62 Russian individuals and entities, including members of the Russian elite, and halted all export permits.

Last week, Mr. Trudeau expanded those measures by adding five more people to the list, among them the oligarch Roman Abramovich, who was recently added to British sanctions. On Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said the measures had been further expanded to include 15 more Russians.

Canada has sent military equipment to Ukraine, including airborne camera systems for monitoring Russian troop movements and humanitarian aid. From 2015 up until the Russian invasion, about 200 members of Canada’s military were in Ukraine providing training to its armed forces.

Amid concerns of a new European refugee crisis as Ukrainians flee the country, Mr. Trudeau has also said Canada would prioritize immigration applications for Ukrainians and lift limits on visas.


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