Bakery Owned by Former Lawmaker Defaced With Pro-Russia Graffiti

The owner of a Ukrainian bakery in Toronto who is also a former member of Canada's parliament says he "won't be intimidated" after his shop was vandalized with pro-Russian graffiti.

Future Bakery, located in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, was defaced by numerous messages in the early hours of Tuesday morning. This includes disparaging comments such as "#Losers," "F**k Ukrian [sic]," and "Russia Is Power," according to the Toronto Star.

Words had also reportedly been covered up to leave letters spelling out "Putin" in a reference to the president of Russia.

The messages were spray painted onto a "#StandWithUkraine" banner that had recently been hung outside of the bakery.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the owner of the bakery and a former member of the Canadian House of Commons, told reporters that "this isn't just graffiti or vandalism. It was an attempt at intimidation. It's a hate crime."

"But I won't be intimidated," he added.

Bakery
A bakery in a Toronto suburb has been vandalized with pro-Russia graffiti after it unveiled a banner in solidarity with Ukraine. The nation is currently on edge as Russian troops continue to amass along the nation's border. Toronto Police stated that an investigation remains ongoing. iStock/Getty

Wrzesnewskyj, a third-generation baker, inherited Future Bakery after his grandparents started the store. They originally emigrated to Canada after leaving Europe following World War II.

Wrzesnewskyj is considered a leader within Toronto's Ukrainian community, and in addition to condemning the vandalism, also called on the Canadian government to do more to protect Ukrainian-Canadians.

"We live in the best country in the world, a free and democratic country. I'm blessed to be here as the child and grandchild of refugees from World War II," Wrzesnewskyj said. "Our family knows the consequences of war. It's time to stand with Ukraine and stop Putin now."

"We are saying stand with Ukraine at a time when in Europe a democratic country who has made its democratic choice to be part of a free Western Europe is facing an army of 130,000 Russian soldiers on the border...it is very personal for many of us here, Ukrainian-Canadians," Wrzesnewskyj added.

Outside of Ukraine and Russia, Canada has the largest population of Ukrainians in the world. At least 1.3 million people identify themselves as Ukrainian-Canadian, according to 2016 census data.

As tensions between Ukraine and Russia continue to intensify, with troops continuing to amass on the Ukrainian border, a number of parties condemned the vandalism at the bakery. This includes Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who tweeted on Tuesday, "The vandalism at Future Bakery is absolutely disgraceful."

"Ontario will not tolerate hate toward any group," Ford added. "I stand with the #Ukrainian community and ask anyone with any information, please notify @TorontoPolice."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also retweeted a post from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said, "This act of hatred and vandalism is completely unacceptable."

"We will not be intimidated by cowards who hate our freedoms and our way of life," Alexandra Chyczij, the head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), said in a press release following the attack. "This craven attack shows the importance of effectively fighting disinformation campaigns led by the Russian state that target Canada, the Ukrainian Canadian and other Central and East European communities."

"The UCC has long advocated for the Canadian government to take seriously the pernicious influence of Russian-state led disinformation campaigns and the vitriol and hatred that they spread," Chyczij added.

A media relations officer for the Toronto Police Service told Newsweek that the incident was currently under investigation. However, they added that "the Hate Crime Unit will be made aware of the incident" and that "specialized officers from the unit" would aid in the investigation.

The officer also said that if a person is charged and convicted of a hate-motivated offense "the judge will take into consideration hate as an aggravating factor when imposing a sentence."

A spokesperson for Toronto Mayor John Tory shared a statement with Newsweek in which Tory said, "Acts of hatred towards the Ukrainian community are totally unacceptable."

"I'm very troubled to hear a sign in support of Ukraine at Future Bakery in Etobicoke was vandalized," Tory added. "Hate has no place in this city."

Update (02/09/2022, 4:20 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a statement from the mayor of Toronto.