Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to have attended a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy and promised that no similar incidents would occur again.
The statement follows reporting by the Globe and Mail that Yasemin Heinbecker, the deputy chief of protocol at the Global Affairs department, attended a Russia Day celebration at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa Friday night. The holiday commemorates Russia’s constitutional reform at the end of the Soviet era.
Heinbecker’s attendance comes as Canada and its allies have pushed back against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
“This is unacceptable. No Canadian representative should have attended the event hosted at the Russian Embassy [and] no Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again,” Joly wrote in a tweet Sunday night.
She reiterated that Canada continues to support Ukraine.
WATCH | ‘No Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again,’ Joly says:
A Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said the decision to send a protocol officer to the reception was made by the department.
“No Canadian representative should have attended the event hosted at the Russian Embassy and no Canadian representative will attend this kind of event in the future,” said the GAC statement.
“Russian officials will not be invited to Canada Day events hosted by the department.”
Diplomats from other countries attended
Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov said he appreciated Heinbecker coming to the event.
“We believe diplomacy is an all-weather instrument and diplomatic protocol is an important part of upkeeping the bilateral communications. Diplomacy is about dialogue,” he said in a statement.
“We don’t look at Canada through the adversarial optic and are ready to patiently wait when [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s cabinet or the next government come to understand that it’s in Canadian national interest to pursue good-neighbourly relations with Russia.”
The embassy said Joly was also invited to the reception and said diplomats from other countries attended.
Since the assault in Ukraine began in February, the Canadian government has imposed sanctions on individuals with ties to Russia and sent military supplies, including ammunition, to aid Ukrainian troops.
Last week, the RCMP disclosed that assets and transactions worth more than $400 million Cdn have been sanctioned as a result of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen said the Liberal government should do more to isolate Vladimir Putin’s regime, including expelling Russian diplomats.
“Instead of endorsing the lavish, Kremlin-backed celebration at the Russian embassy, the Liberal government should be working with countries like Egypt, Pakistan and those in Africa to prevent Putin’s illegal war from causing a global food crisis which will hurt developing countries the most,” she said in a statement.