The Canadian government, speaking of the need to isolate Moscow politically and diplomatically because of the military attack on Ukraine, nevertheless sent a prominent representative to participate in the national party of the Russian embassy in Ottawa on Friday.
The Russia Day 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 war on Ukraine.
Russia’s national holiday falls on June 12, but Moscow’s diplomatic mission in Ottawa commemorated it early on Friday with a lavish distribution of food, drink and a speech by Russian Ambassador Oleg Stepanov recalling his country’s long-standing relationship with Russia. Canada. Among the guests were representatives from Egypt and Pakistan and African countries.
Yasemin Heinbecker, deputy chief of protocol at Canada’s Department of Global Affairs, was also in attendance.
The Russian embassy said it appreciated Canada’s presence.
“We appreciate that Ms. Heinbecker honors our reception,” Vladimir Proskuryakov, deputy head of mission at the Russian embassy, said in a statement.
“We believe diplomacy is an all-weather tool and diplomatic protocol is an important part of maintaining bilateral communication.”
The Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, an advocacy group, said the Canadian government’s presence at the Russia Day celebrations was shocking.
Ihor Michalchyshyn, chief executive officer and executive director of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, which represents Canadians of Ukrainian descent, noted that the House of Commons recently — in April — passed unanimously a motion declaring Russia’s war on Ukraine a genocide. .
“That our government would send officials to a party at the Russian embassy is horrific to us as Canadians and offensive to us as Ukrainians,” Mr Michalchyshyn said.
“We have long called on the Canadian government to expel Russian diplomats still in Canada and recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. So far, our government has ignored these calls.”
Foreign Ministry Mélanie Joly defended Canada’s presence at the Russian embassy festivities and said it is keeping diplomatic channels open for further national interests.
“This is not a normal situation, but we still maintain diplomatic relations with Russia in matters of Canadian interests and Global Affairs Canada sent a protocol officer to the front desk,” Christelle Chartrand, a spokesperson for the department, said in a statement. a statement.
She said it is important to remember that Canada has publicly condemned “Russia’s illegal and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine” and that the Canadian government has twice summoned Moscow’s envoy to express this condemnation directly to him.
Interim conservative leader Candice Bergen said Russia Day should be a celebration of the Russian peoples who reject the authoritarian and communist Soviet Union, but this year has been overshadowed by Mr Putin’s illegal war and occupation of Ukraine.
“Conservatives have long called on the Liberal government to do more to isolate the Putin regime in the world, including by expelling Russian diplomats, as our allies have done,” Ms Bergen told The Globe and Mail on Sunday. “Instead of approving the lavish Kremlin-backed 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 will harm developing countries the most. †
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Heather McPherson called the decision to send a Canadian representative to the lavish party “pretty outrageous.”
Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst and associate professor of international relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said it was inappropriate and unnecessary for Canada to participate in Russia’s National Day.
“Maintaining diplomatic relations in times of armed conflict is important for crisis management and an important tool for government,” said Prof. Carvin.
“But given the Russian aggression, Canada’s strong stance against that aggression and the alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, this is ill-timed and inappropriate,” she said.
“Attending the reception goes far beyond what is necessary.”
Russia’s military assault has so far lasted more than 15 weeks and some of the war’s bloodiest battles are now taking place in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said that up to 100 Ukrainians die every day on the war’s eastern front, which appeared to be a reference to military casualties.
The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on more than 1,070 individuals, companies and organizations in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine since Russia’s last military attack on Ukraine began in late February.
In late May, Secretary of State Melanie Joly said the sanctions are an attempt to “stifle Putin’s regime” and said the aim of allies, including Canada, is to isolate Russia “economically, politically and diplomatically”.
Canada has pledged $500 million in military aid to Ukraine this year and has paid out several hundred million so far.
In recent months, Canadian diplomats have joined other countries in running away from international events when Russian representatives speak.
After being forced to scale back its initial campaign goals, including withdrawing troops that threatened Kiev, Moscow has turned to expanding control in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have held much of the territory since 2014 to have.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said it was completely inappropriate for a senior Global Affairs to attend a lavish event at the Russian embassy.
“This is not appropriate in the current situation in light of the face we are trying to isolate Russian diplomatically,” said Mr. Chong Sunday in an interview. “This doesn’t seem to hold up with government policy.”
The Canadian government’s position is that it is trying to isolate Moscow, even though it has not declared the Russian diplomats persona non grata here.
He noted that other allies, including the United States and Europe, have expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats in recent months.
In late January, Moscow’s envoy to Canada told The Globe that his country would never invade Ukraine and invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call Mr Putin so he can hear the Russian president explain how there is “zero chance” that Russia Ukraine will invade. On February 24, Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
† With files from Reuters