Russian Plane to be Seized by Canada from Toronto Airport

I remember the first time I saw the Russian cargo plane grounded at Toronto Pearson International Airport. I was commuting to a film shoot last March and noticed the huge plane parked on the tarmac, surrounded by security vehicles. It’s a part of the airport I drive by all the time and it immediately caught my attention. It looked out of place and ominous, like a giant metal beast.

The plane had arrived from China via Russia and Alaska to deliver a shipment of COVID-19 rapid tests. But it couldn’t leave because Canada had closed its airspace to Russian aircraft in response to the war in Ukraine. It was stuck there, accumulating parking fees of more than $1,000 per day.  

I had been following the news closely, watching the images of violence and destruction, hearing the stories of death and displacement. I had friends and colleagues who had family ties to Ukraine, and I knew how worried and scared they were for their loved ones. I felt deep, deep sadness for the people of Ukraine, who were suffering under the brutal invasion of Russia. The plane became a constant reminder of the war. It was like a witness to history, and like everyone else in the city who passed it, I wondered how long would it stay there?

I met an actor last week on set who had come to Canada from Ukraine in November, after she had to flee her home in Kyiv. She was a local TV journalist and working actor there, and had left absolutely everything behind. It was unimaginable what she had been through. She was brave and so talented. She told me how she loved Canada, how she felt safe and free here. But she also told me how she missed Ukraine, how she worried about her country and how she barely recognized her life anymore.

A year ago, the federal government granted itself the power to seize and sell Russian assets through budget implementation legislation, despite warnings given to Chrystia Freeland about the potential risks for Canada. It felt like such a strong a message of solidarity, showing that Canada was willing to stand up to Russia, and show Canada’s unwavering support and belief in Ukraine. Now the plane will be seized and handed over to the Ukrainian government.

I’m proud that Canada stands by people like the actor I met, who had to leave everything behind, and that we continue to support and champion those affected by conflicts.

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