Canadian Representative Attends Russian Embassy Party in Ottawa


A pro-Ukrainian supporter waves the country’s flag in front of the Russian embassy in Ottawa on February 24.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Canadian government, which has repeatedly emphasized the need to isolate Moscow politically and diplomatically over its military assault on Ukraine, nonetheless sent a senior representative to take part in the Russian embassy’s Russia Day party in Ottawa on Friday.

The reception took place at the embassy on Charlotte Street, recently renamed Free Ukraine Street by the city of Ottawa, even as protesters outside the gates denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his country’s smallest neighbor.

Russia Day, which commemorates the 1990 passage of legislation that began Russia’s constitutional reform at the end of the Soviet era, is celebrated on June 12. Moscow’s diplomatic mission in Ottawa celebrated its celebration Friday morning with a lavish array of food and drinks, as well as a speech by Russian Ambassador Oleg Stepanov recalling his country’s longstanding relationship with Canada. The guests included representatives from Pakistan, Egypt and other African countries.

Canada’s representative at the event was Yasemin Heinbecker, deputy director of protocol for Canada’s Department of Global Affairs.

The Russian embassy said it appreciated Canada’s presence.

“We appreciate Ms. Heinbecker for honoring our reception,” Vladimir Proskuryakov, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, said in a statement.

“We believe that diplomacy is an all-weather instrument and diplomatic protocol is an important part of maintaining bilateral communications.”

The Canadian-Ukrainian Congress, an advocacy group, said the Canadian government’s attendance at the celebration was impressive.

Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director and chief executive officer of the congress, which represents Canadians of Ukrainian descent, noted that the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion in April declaring Russia’s war against Ukraine a genocide.

“For our government to send officials to a celebration at the Russian embassy is appalling to us as Canadians and offensive to us as Ukrainians,” Michalchyshyn said.

“We have long called on the Canadian government to expel any Russian diplomats still in Canada and to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Until now, our government has ignored these calls.”

The department of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, defended the presence of Canada in the festivities of the Russian embassy.

“This is not a typical situation, but we still maintain a diplomatic relationship with Russia on matters of Canadian concern and Global Affairs Canada has sent a protocol officer to the front desk,” Christelle Chartrand, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a statement.

He said it is important to remember that Canada has publicly condemned “Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine,” and that the Canadian government twice summoned Moscow’s envoy to express this condemnation directly to him.

Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and a former national security analyst, said it was inappropriate and unnecessary for Canada to participate in Russia’s celebrations.

“Maintaining diplomatic relations during a time of armed conflict is important for crisis management and an important tool for government,” said Professor Carvin.

“However, given Russia’s aggression, Canada’s strong stance against that aggression, and the alleged war crimes Russian forces are committing in Ukraine, this is untimely and inappropriate. Attending the reception goes way beyond what is necessary.”

Acting Conservative leader Candice Bergen said Russia Day is supposed to be a celebration of the Russian people who reject authoritarianism and the communist Soviet Union, but it has been overshadowed this year by the illegal war and occupation of Ukraine by Russia. Putin.

“Conservatives have long called on the Liberal government to do more to isolate the Putin regime from the world, including by expelling Russian diplomats, as our allies have done,” Ms. Bergen said on Sunday. “Instead of backing the Kremlin-backed lavish celebration at the Russian embassy, ​​the liberal government should work with countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and those in Africa to prevent Putin’s illegal war from sparking a global food crisis that will further harm the poor. developing countries. .”

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson called the decision to send a Canadian representative to the party “quite outrageous.”

Russia’s military assault has lasted more than 15 weeks. Some of the bloodiest battles of the war now take place in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said that up to 100 Ukrainians are killed every day on the war’s eastern front, an apparent reference to military casualties.

The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on more than 1,070 individuals, businesses and organizations in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine since the full-scale invasion of Russia began in late February.

In late May, Ms. Joly said that the sanctions are aimed at “stifling the Putin regime” and that Canada and its allies aim to isolate Russia “economically, politically and diplomatically”.

Canada has pledged $500 million in military aid to Ukraine this year and has disbursed several hundred million so far. And, in recent months, Canadian diplomats have joined other countries in withdrawing from international events when Russian representatives speak.

With a Reuters report

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