Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy and is promising that nothing similar will happen again.
The statement follows a report by the Globe and Mail that Yasemin Heinbecker, 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.
Canada and its allies continue to sanction and isolate Russia in response to its 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 said that Canada continues to support Ukraine.
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Responding to the Globe and Mail, Joly's department at first defended Canada's presence at the Russian embassy event.
"This is not a business-as-usual situation, but we still maintain a diplomatic relation with Russia on matters of Canadian interests and Global Affairs Canada sent a protocol officer to the reception," Christelle Chartrand, a spokesperson for the department, was quoted as saying Friday.
The paper reported that Chartrand sent a revised statement after the story ran Sunday in which she apologized on behalf of the government.
In a statement to CBC, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said the decision to send a protocol officer to the reception was made by the department and shouldn't have happened.
"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 attending 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 media 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 diplomats from other countries attended.
Since the war in Ukraine began in February, the Canadian government has imposed sanctions on individuals with ties to Russia and has sent military supplies, including ammunition, to 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.
WATCH | 'No Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again,' Joly says:
Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen said the Liberal government should do more to isolate Russian President 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.