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Ukrainian servicemen sit atop armoured personnel carriers driving on a road in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Feb. 24.VADIM GHIRDA/The Associated Press

Canadian political leaders widely condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, with some premiers declaring it “a war of aggression,” and expressing support for efforts by Canada and other western nations to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“This is a dark day,” B.C. Premier John Horgan wrote on Twitter. “I join the PM and allied nations in deploring this illegal and unjust war. We stand with the people of Ukraine, and the many people in BC with family and friends there.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the invasion “devastating,” tweeting “Weakness invites aggression. The democratic world must be united in standing with Ukraine. That should begin with a hard global embargo of all Russian oil & gas exports.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council issued a statement saying more than 330,000 people in Alberta claim Ukrainian ancestry, and called for Albertans to support Ukraine “militarily, politically, economically and financially.”

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson tweeted that her province joined the federal government in calling on Russia to end its invasion, writing “It’s hard to imagine how difficult watching the news must be for so many Manitobans who have loved ones in Ukraine.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a despot” and “a thug” for his invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, noting Ukraine’s deep ties to Canada and vowing that democracy must be defended.

Mr. Ford told the Ontario Legislature that the country had “witnessed a violent attack on a sovereign nation by a despot, a thug. We witnessed Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression begin in Ukraine.”

The Ontario government 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.”

In a brief but unusually poetic speech that prompted a standing ovation from both sides of the legislature, the Premier compared the attack with the beginnings of both the First World War and the Second World War, adding that “we must pray” Feb. 24, 2022, does not become another infamous date in history books.

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He said the bonds between Canada and Ukraine run deep, noting the wave of Ukrainian immigrants that settled and farmed across Western Canada, whose descendants remain. And he listed prominent Canadians of Ukrainian origin, such as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, late gameshow host Alex Trebek and astronaut Roberta Bondar.

“They left a permanent mark on Canadian history,” he said. “Without Ukraine, the Canada we know and love today would not be the same.”

Mr. Ford said Canada “shall never waver” in standing against tyranny, defending democracy and supporting Ukraine. And he warned Russia the strength of Ukrainians would “emerge from the darkness.”

“We must ensure the Ukrainian flag flies high above the skyline. The blue and yellow must be the last colours the invaders see,” the Premier said. He ended his remarks with the Ukrainian national salute, partially in Ukrainian, followed by its English translation: “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes.”

Ontario Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she stood in solidarity with Ukrainians and their worried relatives in Canada. She condemned the attack and called for “diplomacy and immediate de-escalation” of military actions. She asked the federal government to welcome Ukrainian refugees and provide humanitarian aid.

“I join global leaders and peace-loving people around the world in condemning this unprovoked attack by the Russian Federation and the violent invasion Putin is using to drag people into the horrors of war,” Ms. Horwath said.

Ontario Liberal MPP John Fraser called for unity and warned that “there is evil in the world.” Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he stood in solidarity with Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Canadians “to denounce this senseless act of aggression by Russia.”

Eugene Lupynis with Metro Vancouver’s Ukrainian Community Society Of Ivan Franko said the news about the invasion has left him full of terror and concern.

“We’ve been watching this build not just for weeks but for years,” he said in an interview. “When Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine back in 2014, there was always a feeling something would happen but we were praying it wouldn’t.”

Mr. Lupynis’ immediate family moved to B.C. in the 1950s but he has many relatives living in western Ukraine. He said the invasion “boggles the mind” and that everyone needs to fear what Mr. Putin could do next.

“The West has always underestimated what Putin could, and would, do he’s rewriting history in his own pen and trying to get the world to believe it.”

In response to the Feb. 24 attacks on Ukraine, Canada’s new sanctions target a number of individuals and entities, including Russian elites and members of the Russian Security Council. In addition, all export permits to Russia have been cancelled or denied. This amounts to hundreds of permits worth more than $7-million, says Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly.

With reports from Jeff Gray and Tamsin McMahon

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