The war changed the lives of Russian-Canadians | War in Ukraine
According to the Russian Embassy in Canada, members of the community frequently report being victims of intimidation and harassment.
One year after the the start of the war in Ukraine, the Russian ambassador in Ottawa says that Canada has become a “very dangerous country” for its compatriots. Members of the Russian community refute these statements, but admit all the same that their life has changed in recent months.
The situation is serious, says Vladimir Proskuryakov in an interview with Radio-Canada. The Deputy Head of Mission at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa says his office receives complaints every day from compatriots who are victims of harassment and intimidation.
We received 1000 or 2000 calls so far, he said.
The ambassador himself, Oleg Stepanov, is of the opinion that Canada is not safe for Russians. I wouldn't recommend it for tourism, education or business, he told state news agency RIA Novosti earlier this month.
“We have several cases where people have lost their jobs,” says Vladimir Proskuryakov. In other more serious cases, notably in Calgary and Toronto…some have received threats. »
The envoy from Moscow even speaks of attacks, but did not want to give more specific information for confidentiality reasons, so it was impossible for us to corroborate this information. However, incidents have indeed been reported in the media and by the police.
In Montreal, for example, the SPVM has documented 11 hate crimes against a person of Russian origin since the February 24, 2022.
In front of the Russian Consulate General in Montreal, a demonstration is held every lunchtime.
City councilor Serge Sasseville has been demonstrating every day in front of the Russian Consulate General in Montreal since March 15, 2022, accompanied by a few people.< /p>
Every day since March 15, 2022, city councilor Serge Sasseville and a small group of people sing the Ukrainian national anthem and sound sirens there.
The Russian Embassy sees this as an example of hostility. We have no objection to people demonstrating peacefully […], but sometimes the participants are aggressive, deplores Vladimir Proskuryakov.
We don't have we've never seen that, it's funny, answers Serge Sasseville. There is nothing dangerous, we are not attacking anyone, we are peaceful.
Olga Babina (center) and Yuriy Novodvorskiy (right) organize fundraising campaigns for Ukraine and anti-war demonstrations.
Moreover, people of Russian origin accompany him, including Olga Babina, who has been living in Montreal for six years. There is no danger here, she adds. I feel safe and even privileged to be here in Canada.
Life is much more dangerous in Russia, she notes, where protests like this are not tolerated. It's hard to explain to someone who's never felt it, but for us, with our history, it's in our blood to live in fear.
I believe it is natural for the ambassador to say things like that, but I have seen absolutely no proof of what he is saying, adds Yuriy Novodvorskiy. I don't have to hide the fact that I'm Russian.
With Olga, he founded the Democratic Alliance of Russian Canadians (ADCR) a few months ago to unite members of the diaspora who are against the war.
Varvara Rakova participates in rallies against the war in Ukraine, partly because she says she feels shame since the start of the Russian invasion.
To say that Canada has become dangerous is ridiculous, said Varvara Rakova, who is involved in certain militant activities. I think it's propaganda.
Nothing bad has happened to me since the start of the war in Ukraine, she explains. In fact, when people hear a little Russian accent, some people ask me, “Where are you from?”. I say Russian. They say, “Ah! It's not easy huh". They understand. People are smart.
Based in the country since 1995, Lev Chif is the editor of Rendez-vous à Montréal, a newspaper for the Russian-speaking population of metropolis, published once a week. He also accuses the Russian ambassador of disinformation, but he admits to having received insults and even lost advertisers in recent months.
Once, I pick up the phone, a man says to me: “You are Russian, fuck you, I hate you”, he says. They associate us with [Vladimir] Poutine.
Lev Chif founded the Russian-language newspaper “Rendez-vous à Montréal” with his wife in 1998.
Ironically, Lev isn't even Russian. He is rather from Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic.
When I arrived here, people asked me where I was from, he recalls. I was answering from Uzbekistan and they were like, “What?” Over time, I started to say that I was from Russia. It was easier.
Now I never say that, he says, smirking.
Fear to be associated with a war that he does not condone, even a feeling of guilt, are part of his new reality, as for many others.