Bilateral relations

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Canada were established  on June 12, 1942. 

The Russian-Canadian ties are based on a substantial legal foundation, including the Treaty on Concord and Cooperation of June 19, 1992, as well as  a number of economic agreements (on bilateral trade, economic cooperation, promotion and mutual protection of investments, avoiding double taxation, etc.) and agreements on sectoral cooperation (the Arctic and the North, air traffic, mutual legal assistance in criminal cases, etc.). 

After 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine the Canadian authorities undertook series of steps aimed at cutting ties with Russia. Ottawa has imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities 19 times (as of October 2020 visa  and financial restrictions extend to 227 Russian citizens and 95 organizations).

The Intergovernmental Economic Commission (established in 1995) work has been brought to a halt. Military contacts has also been suspended. 

In retaliation Russia has limited Canadian import of agricultural products, raw materials and food supplies (fish, seafood and pork). A number of Canadian citizens have been banned from entering Russia. 

Before the Ukrainian crisis bilateral political dialogue had been progressively developing. Contacts on the margins of international fora had been organized on a regular basis. For example, former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper visited Russia twice (Saint Petersburg in 2006 and Vladivostok  in 2012) to participate in the G8 Summit and the APEC Forum. 

Since 2014 the Canadian side put on hold the bilateral high-level political engagement. After the election of Justin Trudeau as the Prime Minister of Canada  in 2015, despite his declared intention to resume  the dialogue, the situation has not changed much. Although, the President  of Russia and the Canadian Prime Minister met shortly during the G20 summits  in Antalya (2015) and Hangzhou (2016), as well as on the margins of the APEC Forum in Lima (2016). 

This bleak picture is in sharp contrast with the previous state of bilateral contacts and meetings, which were rather frequent and substantial. Former Canadian Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson visited Russia  from September 22 to October 1, 2003. On May 9, 2005, she again travelled  to Moscow to take part in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). In 2007, ex-Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Victor Zubkov paid a working visit to Canada, during which he met with Governor-General Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Russia and Canada also maintained regular contacts at the level of Foreign Ministers. In 1997, the first official visit to Canada was made by the Minister  of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation followed by three consecutive working visits of the same level (in 1999, 2000 and 2006). Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Lawrence Cannon visited Russia in 2010, while  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with his counterpart John Baird on the margins of the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg on September 6, 2013. However, after the Liberal government came to power there was only one  full-fledged ministerial meeting in 2016 between Sergei Lavrov and then Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion on the margins of the ASEAN Forum  in Vientiane. 

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov held talks on strategic stability with Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister Mark Gwozdecky at the end of 2016. Inter-Ministerial consultations at the level of department heads or senior officials on bilateral issues, foreign policy planning, counter-terrorism, cultural humanitarian cooperation as well as visa issues took place during 2017. 

Russian-Canadian Interparliamentary relations had been normally developing before 2014. A delegation of the State Duma headed by its Chairman visited Canada in 2001. Speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella travelled to Russia  in 2003 and 2007, and Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken  was on an official visit to Moscow in 2005. A delegation of the Federation Council  of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation headed by its Chairman Sergey Mironov visited Canada in November 2005. 

In 1998, a group of friendship Canada-Russia was established  in the Canadian Parliament, which was joined by several Canadian senators  and representatives of the House of Commons from different political parties. Similar friendship group was created in the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, comprised of the representatives of the Federation Council and the State Duma and headed by former hockey star Vladislav Tretiak.  

After the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine Ottawa suspended all bilateral parliamentarian ties, but contacts between MPs continue within the framework  of international fora, particularly on the Arctic. 

Russia and Canada have been closely working in the Arctic Council based on almost similar positions, primarily, regarding sustainable development objectives as well as multilateral cooperation in «northern dimension». Both countries’ officials, experts, business representatives maintain regular contacts on wide agenda, including indigenous people’s rights, continental shelf, climate, ecology, fishing and navigation in the Arctic. 

Cooperation between Russian and Canadian regions is also going on.  Among the most active Canadian provinces are Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta. On the Russian side increasing interest in forging ties with Canadian counterparts have been shown by Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk, Krasnodar, Primorye and Murmansk regions. In 2016, President  of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov visited Toronto and Montreal, while in 2019 Deputy Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) K.Bychkov signed in Ottawa an agreement with Parks Canada on the fourth wood bison transfer  from Alberta to Russia.

The fundamental principle of the Russian Federation regarding development of bilateral relationship proceeds from the necessity to continue interstate dialogue on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect of national interests, taking into account the potential accumulated in previous years. This approach coincides with business community and political circles’ point of view that Canada’s self-isolation from Russia is counterproductive, particularly in such vital areas as «northern dimension», trade and investment, counter-terrorism. Being neighbors across the North Pole and the Pacific Ocean, sharing common passion for hockey, Russia and Canada can and should maintain stable and predictable relations.