Jean Chrétien asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to send a representative to a meeting of former world leaders when the group holds its next meeting in early June.
The former Canadian prime minister made the request when he met with Mr. Putin in Moscow in late April. The meeting took place amid heightened tensions between Canada and Russia over Moscow's support for separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine.
A Russian news channel released silent video footage of the encounter but did not provide details about what was discussed, and Mr. Chrétien has not addressed the meeting publicly. However, a source familiar with the matter said Mr. Chrétien suggested that Mr. Putin send a representative to the InterAction Council when the group of former leaders holds a meeting early next month.
The InterAction Council, which Mr. Chrétien co-chairs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon. Before Mr. Chrétien travelled to Russia last month, the group indicated in a statement that the former prime minister would be gathering material for its discussions on relations with Russia.
The Council's website indicates that it is focused on international co-operation and action on matters of peace and security, world economic revitalization and universal ethical standards. It counts former United States president Bill Clinton and former Mexican president Vicente Fox among its members and says it develops proposals for current global leaders.
Mr. Chrétien's decision to meet directly with Mr. Putin put him at odds with the Conservative government. A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday that Mr. Chrétien was "clearly not representing the government of Canada" during his encounter with Mr. Putin. "Our government's position on the Putin regime is clear," the spokesman added.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been vocal in his criticism of Mr. Putin's government, often going out of his way to make his opposition known. During a G20 meeting in Australia last November, Mr. Harper told the Russian President to "get out of Ukraine," a remark that was quickly relayed to reporters who were covering the event.
Canada is home to more than one million people of Ukrainian descent.
The Department of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a question about whether a Canadian official would seek to attend the InterAction Council's meeting next month, should a Russian representative participate in the event.
Mr. Chrétien has long been on friendly terms with Moscow. During his time in government, he had a close relationship with former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and helped Russia join the G8 in the 1990s.
In early 2014, Mr. Putin gave Mr. Chrétien Russia's Order of Friendship for his contribution to strengthening and developing friendship and co-operation with the Russian Federation. The award was presented to Mr. Chrétien by Russia's then-ambassador to Canada, shortly before Russia's annexation of Crimea.