Collaborating With China: Winnipeg Lab Debacle Could Be Just the Tip of the Iceberg

June 28, 2021 Updated: June 29, 2021

Commentary

In the summer of 2010, then-Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden warned in a CBC interview of elaborate espionage campaigns being conducted in Canada by foreign governments. Though he didn’t identify a specific country, it was obvious he was referring to China.

Fadden also talked about what has more recently been termed “elite capture,” the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to curry favour with those in positions of power and influence to advance its interests.

As China has become more powerful and brazen, transparency around Canada’s dealings with the CCP is even more important.

The controversy around the firing of two Chinese scientists from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and the transfer of deadly viruses from the facility to Wuhan, China, is a case in point.

The Liberal government has been trying to avoid releasing to Parliament the unredacted documents related to the firing of the two scientists. Last week, the government decided to take House Speaker Anthony Rota to court after he upheld the House’s order for the government to release the documents. This came about because Iain Stewart, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, refused to release the documents to the Special Committee on Canada-China relations for several weeks.

The government’s move against Rota is seen as unprecedented, and much commentary has been rightly preoccupied with how this action reflects the diminished role of Parliament in our democracy and how the courts are becoming the prominent arena for political disputes. However, commentary should also focus on how our relations with communist China and the footprint we’ve allowed the regime to develop in our society has had a corrupting influence.

The government’s argument is that the release of the documents could reveal information that could damage Canada’s national security. Indeed, the nature of national security does require that some things remain under wraps. But in this instance, per the Constitution, Parliament should get what it has requested. This is, after all, a consequence of the Liberals continually stifling any serious discussion on China.

Looking deeper, aside from those in government typically going to great lengths to avoid offending Beijing, one senses a latent fear of what might be revealed about the connections many have with China and the continual ill-advised actions that are informed by a commitment to these connections, as Fadden and other security experts have consistently warned for years.

As the National Post recently reported, those in leadership positions at the Winnipeg lab have long been involved in collaborations with China, continuing to work with Beijing even after it was proven that the CCP was behind several incidents of economic espionage, cyberattacks, and intellectual property theft. Academics, particularly those at universities who maintain close partnerships with Chinese institutions, have rushed to defend such partnerships with arguments to the effect that scientific collaboration with foreign powers has nothing to do with national security concerns.

“I think it would be short-sighted to heavily restrict research partnerships,” one academic said in the National Post article. “After all, science is a global enterprise and one never knows where and when a breakthrough or major discovery can emerge.”

The question of what a ruthless, untrustworthy regime like the CCP would use such major discoveries for is apparently irrelevant.

As more information around the lab in Winnipeg has come to light, it’s no surprise that the voices wisely calling for a halt to collaborations with Beijing have been amplified. It’s also not surprising that, in response, there have been many articles published by major publications condemning such calls as xenophobia, reckless nationalism, or the product of a “Cold War mentality.”

The hostile sentiment toward China and those who are pro-engagement is comparable to the McCarthy era of the Cold War and a cause of anti-Asian racism, argues a recent op-ed in The Globe and Mail by a prominent senator and academic. Moreover, “exaggerations” about the reach of Chinese organizations such as the United Front have led to racial profiling and stigmatization of those of Chinese background. “Framing China as the enemy and insinuating elite capture” will make relations with Beijing more difficult and undermine “Canadian values” and inclusiveness, they write.

Similarly, in an article in The Conversation in response to the Alberta government’s ban on university partnerships with China, three Canadian university professors argue that “curbing research ties with China increases anti-China hysteria at a time of heightened tensions between Canada and China.” Continuing along these lines, they then denounce the “Cold War mentality” that informs such a policy, claiming it will have inevitably racist outcomes for Chinese academics and students, speculating that they will have to engage in self-censorship when “talking to family members and colleagues back in China.”

These arguments have also been voiced by our prime minister and other politicians in response to criticisms of China. And it is rather perturbing because they are basically repeating the talking points of Beijing’s propaganda. They allege an irrational hysteria among their detractors without providing any solid evidence outside of CCP-esque talking points as to why fear of China is “overblown” or “hysterical.” It is as if they are all drawing from the same script.

The reality is that evidence has long demonstrated that ever-deepening institutional co-operation and connection with the Beijing regime is a ticking time bomb. And we should know very well by now where it will lead if it is allowed to continue. The Winnipeg lab debacle and the problems it exposes in our institutions might only be the tip of the iceberg.

Shane Miller is a researcher for Probe International.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.