MP gives PHAC 20 days to submit a document on the removal of two scientists from the Winnipeg Institute

The Public Health Agency’s Commission refused to disclose important documents that helped the President of Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) explain why two scientists were fired from Canada’s premier security institute. Passed a motion to refuse.

on Wednesday, Special Committee on Relations between Canada and China Give PHAC 20 days to submit all information and documents related to the shipment of live Ebola and henipavirus from Winnipeg’s National Institute of Microbiology (NML) to the Wuhan Institute of Vessels in China in March 2019 The motion has been passed.

In July 2019, Xiangguo Qiu, who was responsible for shipping the virus, was accompanied by police from the institute along with her husband Keding Cheng and a Chinese student, who said, “Security clearance has been stripped due to policy violations and administrative reasons. .. “

A PHAC spokesman later confirmed that the two had been dismissed from the NML as of January 20.

The link between their removal from the lab and the shipment of the virus to Wuhan urged Canadian and Chinese officials to summon and testify to PHAC President Ian Stewart.

Stewart said during a cross-examination by committee members on March 22 that he was “not free” to find out why Qiu and her husband were fired. He was given a March 26 deadline to provide an explanation.

Instead, Stewart told the Commission in Canada Privacy law Prevents him from disclosing “personal information under the control of government agencies”.

“Privacy law does not explicitly intend to provide parliamentarians with personal information about employment or labor relations issues related to civil servants,” he wrote.

Conservative Rep. Michael Chong said Wednesday that Stewart’s reason was not holding water. Citing Article 8.2.c of the Privacy Law, Mr. Chung said that he could disclose personal information held by PHAC when ordered by “an institution with jurisdiction to force the creation of information” such as the House of Commons Committee. He said it was stipulated by law.

He said the PHAC must comply with the orders of the Canadian and Chinese Commissions, and the Standing Commission “has the authority to order the creation of paper and records, rooted in the Constitution, and another privilege delegated by. “. House. “

In the vote, the motion to reject Stewart’s reason was supported by the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois, but the Liberal Party opposed it.

Liberal lawmaker Robert Olifant said Congress has the power to request information, but the two scientists are currently investigating the RCMP, so in this case the Commission “retreats” from such powers. He said he suggested that he do.

“Is there any restrictions on police access to information as a member of parliament while the current investigation is underway?” Olifant asked the Parliamentary legal officer to whom the PHAC document was submitted.

Olifant also questioned whether legal officials have the ability and knowledge to determine potential national security implications for disclosing certain information.

“As an individual member of parliament, I don’t feel that I have enough knowledge to fully understand the impact of action on national security,” he said.

“I like the idea that we have this right, but we oppose this motion if we feel that the public interest is not protected because it may have more important interests than the right to obtain information. I will cast a vote. “

Bloc Québécois Rep. Stephane Bergeron said he was concerned about Olifant’s position.

“He seems to say that when we raise this motion, it’s not because we’re against the decision of a civil servant, but against a powerful government. This civil servant (Ian)・ Stewart) “said Bergeron.

“I didn’t expect a powerful government to authorize this civil servant’s position to not answer parliamentary questions.”

Mr Bergeron also emphasized that the motion included safeguards to prevent parliamentarians from infringing on the public interest by disclosing confidential information.

June 2020, CBC News got the document On March 31, 2019, four months before Qiu and her husband were escorted from NML, she shipped live samples of the deadly Ebola virus and other viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Veterinary Medicine in China. Through an access request to reveal information.

Qiu visited China at least five times between 2017 and 2018. This includes a single trip to train Chinese scientists and technicians in the newly accredited Level 4 lab.

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