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Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemns Russian attack on Ukraine, province commits to aid

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling it a "war of aggression" by Russia. Ford  is shown attending a news conference at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto, on Monday, February 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Ontario's premier condemned Russia's "war of aggression" against Ukraine on Thursday before his government announced a commitment to humanitarian aid and settlement services for Ukrainians.

"Last night, we witnessed a violent attack on a sovereign nation by a despot, a thug," Doug Ford said in a speech at the provincial legislature. "We witnessed Vladimir Putin's war of aggression begin in Ukraine."

Ontario said it would provide $300,000 in humanitarian aid for Ukrainians in need. It said the funds to support medical aid, shelter and food security would be donated to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, which would then distribute the money "quickly and efficiently."

Ontario is also "ready to assist" people fleeing from Ukraine who are in need of settlement services, a government news release said.

In his Thursday morning speech, Ford spoke about contributions by Ukrainian Canadians and the bonds between the two countries, highlighting contributions by Ukrainian farmers, artists and athletes. 

He also invoked the starts of the First and Second World Wars, and said "we must pray" that a similar conflict isn't beginning now. 

"Canada shall never waver in the support of Ukraine," he said. 

Ford was among several Canadian politicians to condemn the attack.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Putin to withdraw military forces. He announced further sanctions against Russia on Thursday and said Canada was cancelling export permits for Russia. 

Trudeau also met with other G7 leaders on Thursday to discuss their response. 

A day earlier, explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other areas of Ukraine as Putin claimed in a televised address that Russia's attack was necessary to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. had predicted Putin would make that argument to justify an invasion. 

Putin also warned other countries that attempts to interfere with the military action would face "consequences they have never seen."

In Ontario, legislators from the three main parties spoke about the conflict, condemning the attack and expressing sympathy for the Ukrainian people. 

"We will always stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine's efforts to strengthen their democracy and institutions," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

"We will always reject the path of aggression, the path of stoking the flames of division and imperialism for political gain, and the path of threatening world peace by attacking the serenity of others and their democratic right to choose their government."

In her remarks about the situation, Horwath also asked that the federal government accept Ukrainian refugees, provide humanitarian aid and commit to family reunification. 

Liberal House Leader John Fraser called on people to put aside their differences to support Ukraine and its people.

"If we're going to stand up for them, we have to stand up for them together," he said.

Ontario Green Leader Mike Schreiner also stressed the importance of solidarity in support for Ukraine and thanked the other parties for their unity in condemning the attack.

"War is never the answer. Violence is never the answer. Launching bombs at innocent civilians is never the answer," he said. "We as Ontarians stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian Canadians to denounce this senseless act of aggression by Russia."

- with files from the Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2022. 

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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