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Canadian FM slams official for attending Russian Day Party

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By Shella Artillero - - 5 Mins Read

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said it was inappropriate for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy, and she guaranteed that nothing like this will happen again.

The response comes after the Globe and Mail reported that Yasemin Heinbecker, the Global Affairs department's deputy chief of protocol, attended a Russia Day celebration at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa on Friday night. The event marks the end of the Soviet era's constitutional reform in Russia.

Heinbecker's visit comes as Canada and its allies fight back against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow refers to as 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.

A representative for Global Affairs Canada said the agency made the choice to deploy a protocol officer to the reception.

"Russian officials will not be invited to the department's Canada Day activities."

The apology came just hours after the event was reported in The Globe and Mail.

Since the war began on February 24, Canada has sanctioned over 1,000 people and organizations with ties to Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Diplomats from other countries attended

Oleg Stepanov, the Russian Ambassador to Canada, expressed gratitude for Heinbecker's attendance.

"We believe diplomacy is an all-weather instrument, and diplomatic procedure is a crucial aspect of maintaining bilateral communications," he said in a statement. "Diplomacy is about discussion."

"We do not view Canada in a hostile light, and we are prepared to patiently wait for [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau's cabinet or the next government to recognize that good neighborly relations with Russia are in Canada's national interest."

According to the embassy, Joly was also invited to the reception, which was attended by ambassadors from other countries.


Since the beginning of the attack in Ukraine in February, the Canadian government has imposed penalties on Russian-linked persons and delivered military supplies, including ammunition, to Ukrainian troops.

As a result of Moscow's war on Ukraine, the RCMP announced last week that assets and transactions worth more than $400 million Canadian dollars have been sanctioned.

The federal administration had regularly discussed the necessity to politically and diplomatically isolate Russia over Moscow's military assault on Ukraine in the months leading up to the convention.

Even as protesters outside the gates criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of his country's smaller neighbor, the reception took place at the embassy on Charlotte Street - newly renamed Free Ukraine Street by the City of Ottawa.

Russia Day Events

On June 12, Russia Day honors the adoption of legislation that kicked off Russia's constitutional reform at the end of the Soviet era. The Russian diplomatic post in Ottawa celebrated early Friday with a magnificent array of food and drinks, as well as a speech by Russian ambassador Oleg Stepanov, who recalled his country's long history with Canada. Guests included representatives from Pakistan, as well as Egypt and other African countries.

Yasemin Heinbecker, the deputy chief of protocol at Canada's Department of Global Affairs, was the Canadian delegate at the event.

"We appreciate Ms. Heinbecker honoring our reception," said Vladimir Proskuryakov, the embassy's deputy head of mission.

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


The participation of the government at the event, according to Ihor Michalchyshyn, chief executive officer and executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, an advocacy group that represents Canadians of Ukrainian descent, was shocking.

Ms. Joly stated in late May that the sanctions are meant to "suffocate the Putin administration" and that Canada and its partners want to isolate Russia "economically, politically, and diplomatically."

This year, Canada offered $500 million in military help to Ukraine, with several hundred million dollars already disbursed. In recent months, Canadian diplomats have joined other nations in boycotting international gatherings where Russian officials are speaking.