Skip to main content

A woman stands in front of her destroyed house following a Russian airstrike in the town of Toretske, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on July 17. Global Affairs Canada says it is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images

A Canadian who went to fight the Russians in Ukraine has been killed in action, and his family is now seeking to bring his remains home.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine. Consular officials are in contact with the family and are providing consular assistance,” said a statement issued Sunday by Marilyne Guèvremont, a spokesperson for the department.

Ms. Guèvremont declined to provide any additional information.

However, Le Journal de Montreal newspaper identified the dead man as Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, a 31-year-old from Montreal, who went to fight in Ukraine in March.

The newspaper reported Mr. Roy-Sirois was killed on the morning of July 18 in the city of Siversk while, with three other soldiers, trying to evacuate a wounded comrade. The New York Times reported that the other soldiers included two Americans and one Swede.

“When the war started, he told me, ‘Mom, I can’t sit idly by. There are children who die,’ ” his mother, Marie-France Sirois, told the newspaper, noting that she had begged him during his time in Ukraine to come home.

Now she said she is waiting for news from Ukraine about bringing her son’s remains home.

Canada’s decision to repair Russian turbines could weaken Western resolve, retired general Rick Hillier says

Why Ukraine’s security chief says Russia’s war is breaking all the rules

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department, when asked about the incident in which Mr. Roy-Sirois died, said in a statement that it could confirm the deaths of two U.S. citizens in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

The statement said the department is in touch with the families and providing all possible consular assistance, but could not provide further comment out of respect to the families.

In February, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said it was up to individual Canadians to decide whether they want to join Ukraine’s new foreign legion to help the country fight the Russian invasion.

Ms. Joly told a news conference the government has warned against travelling to Ukraine because of the insecurity there. But she says Canadians can decide if they want to join the fight.

“We understand that people of Ukrainian descent want to support their fellow Ukrainians and also that there is a desire to defend the motherland and, in that sense, it is their own individual decision,” Ms. Joly said. “Let me be clear: we are all very supportive of any form of support to Ukrainians right now.”

At about the same time, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she would support British citizens who decide to head to Ukraine to fight.

And Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba invited foreigners to join the fight against Russia. He urged people around the world to contact their local Ukrainian embassy to enlist.

Canadian volunteer fighter who was severely wounded in Ukraine has returned home

These Ukrainian women are helping fellow refugees in Poland unravel legal problems – for free

In June, the Russian Defence Ministry said 7,000 Western fighters were in Ukraine, including 601 Canadians, but the figures were dismissed by Global Affairs Canada as disinformation.

Tyler Wentzell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law with a background in the history and law of Canadian foreign fighters, said the death of Mr. Roy-Sirois is a tragic but foreseeable outcome to the participation of Canadians in the war.

In an e-mail exchange, Mr. Wentzell said on Sunday that he had not seen any formal policy on the repatriation of wounded Canadians or remains, which is understandable given the need to be flexible in a complex diplomatic situation.

“It remains to be seen to what extent the federal government will wish to overtly play a role in the process, or to do so quietly behind the scenes,” he said.

Mr. Wentzell noted that his main concern at the moment is captured Canadians.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.