Canadians rallied across the country on Saturday, calling for the return of the nearly 300 kidnapped Nigerian girls who were abducted from a boarding school in the African country more than three weeks ago.

Demonstrators gathered Saturday in downtown Toronto at Dundas Square and in Vancouver’s Robson Square. More rallies are planned for Sunday, in cities across Canada including Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Cambridge, Ont.

In Toronto, members of the Nigerian Canadian Community gathered as part of the larger “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign.

Earlier this week, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Islamic militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the April 15 kidnappings.

Shekau warned that the group, based in Nigeria’s northeast, planned to attack more schools. They’ve also threatened to sell the girls, whom he described as “slaves.”

Amrai Kante, a demonstrator at the rally in Toronto, said news of the kidnappings has gripped the entire world.

“It’s not just Nigeria, all the world -- Canada, America, Africa -- this is a big problem because they are very innocent,” he told CTV Toronto.

Temi Akintan, a student from Toronto who is the same age as many of the abducted schoolgirls, said she felt sad knowing the price the young girls were forced to pay for pursuing an education.

“Knowing that you have an education, you have food, you have a house to go to and these girls have been kidnapped from everything, that their identities have been taken away from them, it’s really sad,” she said.

Nargess Salass brought her young daughter to the rally, hoping to bring light to issues facing young women around the world.

“I told her that what happened, that there are people out there who don’t believe that women have the right to an education and will do such evil things to prevent them from getting that education,” she said.

While the Nigerian army has deployed soldiers to hunt for the missing schoolgirls, there’s been international outrage over the government’s response to the situation, which has been accused of acting too slowly and of refusing international help for weeks.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. said they offered help the day after the mass abduction, but it was only this week that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted. The U.S., Britain, France, Canada and China have all pledged resources.

There have also been reports that the government ignored warnings of the impending attacks. And while the Nigerian military has denied that claim, Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch, called the reports “concerning.”

“I think what we’ve seen time and time again is that the Nigerian government and the security forces that are based up in the north have simply been ineffective and unable to address Boko Haram,” Margon told CTV News Channel.

The group operates in an area of Nigeria that is rampant with poverty and corruption. Margon said funds from the Nigerian government, meant to contribute to education, infrastructure, police services and health care, haven’t been making their way to states in the northern regions of country.

Meanwhile, concerned citizens across the world have been using social media to keep the spotlight on Boko Haram and the missing girls. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, which helped attract attention to the situation, has been tweeted more than 2.1 million times since it started trending in Nigeria about two weeks ago.

With files from The Associated Press and a report from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot