This morning at the first sold-out, mask-less Mayor’s Breakfast in two years, business community leaders were captivated by a powerful address by Andrii Bukvych, chargé d’affaires at the Ukrainian Embassy.
Ottawa’s business community milled about City Hall, drinking coffee, catching up and displaying fully visible facial expressions without masks. Mayor Jim Watson joked that “people have aged” since he last saw their faces mask-free. Friends and colleagues chatted over breakfast, provided by La Cité.
After opening remarks by Ian Sherman, chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade, and an introduction from Mayor Watson, Bukvych called on Ottawa’s business community for support surrounding the ongoing war in Ukraine.
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Bukyvch described with great detail and candidness the horrors being experienced by citizens of his birthplace and his comments were met with solemn respect, thoughtful questions and two standing ovations from his audience.
“We’re very grateful to him for coming to speak to our community,” Sueling Ching, president and CEO of the Board of Trade, told OBJ. “It was highly timely and relevant to have that very candid view of what’s going on and its implications and, more importantly, what we can be doing to support.”
Bukyvch noted the communication difficulties occurring in Ukraine that have made it tricky for humanitarian aid to provide on-the-ground, immediate support to Ukrainians.
Steve Cochrane, founder of TCC Canada, said “we all want to help, but nobody really knows how to.” He expressed a hope that Ottawa’s tech sector could work towards solving Ukraine’s struggles with communication.
His son, Sean Cochrane, president of TCC, said that while hearing from Bukyvch is “awful,” “we have to hear the reality of it. It gets glossed over so much, and being so far away, it’s so easy to ignore.”
“We’re so grateful that we have the opportunity to bring those speakers to the business community,” said Ching. “The impact of what’s going on is affecting us all around the world.”
“Ukraine is about freedom against tyranny, values against money, peace against war. Do not be misled,” said Bukyvch. “Ukraine would not be the last target.”
The Ottawa Board of Trade has compiled a resource page for business leaders looking to get involved. The website is updated regularly, said Ching, and will reflect the support that Bukyvch outlined.