Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said it was unacceptable that a Canadian official had attended a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy and promised that no similar incident would occur again.
The statement follows the Globe and Mail report that Yasemin Heinbecker, deputy chief of protocol for the department of Global Affairs, attended a Russia Day celebration at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa on Friday night. The holiday commemorates Russia’s constitutional reform at the end of the Soviet era.
Heinbecker’s presence comes as Canada and its allies oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
“This is unacceptable. No Canadian representative should have attended the event held at the Russian Embassy [and] no Canadian representative will attend this type of event again,” Joly wrote in a tweet Sunday night.
She reiterated that Canada continues to support Ukraine.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said the decision to send a protocol officer to the front desk was made by the department.
“No Canadian representatives should have attended the event held at the Russian Embassy, and no Canadian representatives will attend this type of event in the future,” the GAC statement said.
“Russian officials will not be invited to Canada Day events organized by the department.”
Diplomats from other countries participated
The Russian ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, said he was pleased that Heinbecker came to the event.
“We believe that diplomacy is an all-weather instrument and diplomatic protocol is an important part of maintaining bilateral communications. Diplomacy is dialogue,” he said in a statement.
“We don’t look at Canada through the eyes of the adversary and are ready to wait patiently when [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s cabinet or the next administration understands that it is in the Canadian national interest to pursue good-neighborly relations with Russia.”
The embassy said Joly was also invited to the reception and said diplomats from other countries attended.
Since the attack 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 over $400 million Cdn were sanctioned as a result of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.