Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says a tweet from her official departmental account praising Syria for joining the Paris climate agreement was "completely unacceptable" and she takes responsibility.
"Canada Salutes Nicaragua and Syria for joining on to the Paris Agreement! Global #ClimateAction. #COP23," the tweet, since deleted, said.
Nicaragua and Syria were the final two countries to sign on to the climate accord, leaving the U.S. as the only United Nations-member state not supporting the agreement.
The tweet attracted dozens of complaints from Twitter users, many of them pointing to the widely suspected use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The celebratory Nicaragua and Syria tweet was sent from @ec_minister. Its description says it is run by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
McKenna has a separate personal account.
"The tweet was completely unacceptable. It was from my departmental Twitter account. We took action right away as soon as we saw it. Look, I'm a human rights lawyer I know more than anyone that the murderous Assad regime and the actions that they're committing, the atrocities against their own people, are completely unacceptable," she said.
"I'm the minister, I take responsibility.
"I can assure everyone I will not be meeting with Syria at the Bonn climate talks that I'm going to next week."
'Your public praise is misplaced'
McKenna's critics included Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt.
"Hey @ec_minister - this ... is actually what your gov't should be saying about Syria," a tweet from Raitt's account said, linking to a U.S. State Department tweet about chemical weapons use in Syria.
Jason Kenney, leader of Alberta's United Conservative Party, also weighed in, calling the 195-nation pact "empty virtue signalling."
Trudeau Govt in one tweet.— @jkenney
Butcher Assad: never mind that unpleasantness about gassing kids. You've joined us in empty virtue signalling! pic.twitter.com/bMjC0psYRE
On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the Syria tweet "unfortunate."
"I can understand how that kind of thing can happen. It's unfortunate. I don't think it reflects well on the department. Certainly not something I think Canadians want to see, government officials congratulating countries led by dictators."