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 the coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014 the Canadian authorities undertook series of steps aimed at cutting ties with Russia. Ottawa imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities 17 times (as of February 2018 visa and financial restrictions extend to 160 Russian citizens and 80 organizations).
The Intergovernmental Economic Commission (established in 1995) activity has been frozen. Military contacts have been also suspended.

In retaliation Russia has limited Canadian import of agricultural products,raw materials and food supplies, particularly fish, seafood and pork. A number of Canadian citizens have been banned to enter Russia.

Before the Ukrainian crisis bilateral political dialogue had been progressively developing. Contacts on the margins of international forums had been organized on regular basis. 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. However, starting from early 2014 bilateral political dialogue was put on hold by the Canadian side.

After the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister of Canada in 2015, despite new Canadian government declared intention to resume dialogue, the situation hasn’t changed much. For example, President of Russia and Canadian PM met only 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 to the previous state of bilateral relations. The former Canadian Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson visited Russia on September 22 – October 1, 2003. On May 9, 2005, she took part in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) in Moscow. The 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 Minster Stephen Harper.

Russia and Canada maintained regular contacts at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. In 1997 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation paid his first official visit to Canada, after which three working visits of same level took place (1999, 2000 and 2006). On September 16, 2010, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Lawrence Cannon visited Russia. On September 6, 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with his counterpart John Baird on the margins of the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg. However, after Liberal government ascendance there was only one full fledged ministerial meeting in 2016 between Sergei Lavrov and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Stephane Dion on the margins of the ASEAN Forum in Vientiane.

At the end of 2016 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Ryabkov held talks on strategic stability with his Canadian counterpart Mark Gwozdecky. Inter-Ministerial consultations at the level of heads of departments 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 developing before 2014. A delegation of the State Duma headed by its Chairman visited Canada in 2001. The Speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella paid official visits to Russia in 2003 and 2007. In October 2005 Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken was on an official visit in Moscow. In November 2005 a delegation of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of Russia headed by its Chairman Sergey Mironov visited Canada.

The Canada-Russia Parliamentary Association was established in 1998 and originally comprised of Canadian MPs from all parties both in the Senate and the House of Commons. Similar groups on bilateral cooperation were established in the Council of Federation and the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. 

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

Russia and Canada have close positions in the Arctic Council, primarily with regards to providing sustainable development as well as international cooperation in the «northern dimension». Both countries’ officials, experts, business representatives maintain regular contacts on the wide agenda, including issues of the status of indigenous people, continental shelf, climate, ecology, fishing and navigation in the Arctic.

Cooperation between Russian and Canadian regions is also developing. The most active in this field are the Canadian provinces: Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta while on the Russian part increasing interest in forging ties with Canadian counterparts have been recently shown by Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Republics of Tatarstan and Sakha (Yakutia), territories of Krasnoyarsk and Krasnodar, Primorye and Murmansk regions.

The basic position of Russia regarding bilateral relationship proceeds from the necessity to continue interstate dialogue on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect of national interests, having in mind the potential accumulated in previous years. This approach is met with understanding by members of business community and political circles, who believe 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 a common passion for hockey, Russia and Canada can and should maintain stable, predictable relations.