Ukrainian-Canadian students from across the Greater Toronto Area gathered in front of the Russian consulate on Saturday afternoon calling on post-secondary institutions to provide academic and mental health support to students affected by the war in Ukraine.
The president of the Ukrainian Student Club at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, Kebrija Leeks-Kottick, said students of the diaspora are the next generation of Ukrainians here in Canada that will continue to carry on Ukrainian traditions. She said what they are seeing back home is disturbing.
The idea of the rally came to be after the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union, Alexandra Holyk, suggested holding a nationwide rally in Toronto to support Ukrainian students and those from other war-torn countries who have yet to receive concrete support as they go through post-secondary education.
“While universities like the University of Toronto and [Ryerson] University displaying blue and yellow lights is a nice gesture, what we need is action,” said Leeks-Kottick. “That is why at this rally we were calling upon universities and colleges, especially those without a Ukrainian student group to represent the affected students, to support students with their academics and counselling.”
The groups are asking universities and colleges to provide support such as assignment extensions and same-day or next-day counseling to students affected by the war.
Another call-to-action the organizers have for the institutions is giving more grants and bursaries to international students from Ukraine who are providing for their families back home.
Leeks-Kottick said her group was the first to put out a press release the day the war started as pressure mounted on students.
“We received calls and voice notes from students who were hysterical at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said Leeks-Kottick. “I asked the students what they needed first and foremost and they said mental health support.”
While the war in Ukraine was only officially declared a few weeks ago, the buildup of eight years of tension has left students exhausted, according to Leeks-Kottick.
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