Tories are calling on the federal government to release unredacted documents concerning the removal of two Chinese scientists from Canada’s highest-security laboratory and the transfer of deadly viruses to China’s Wuhan laboratory.
Conservative Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Chong submitted an opposition day motion Tuesday, urging the House of Commons to “put its full weight” to pressure the liberal government to release the unredacted documents on national security grounds.
“We know that seven government scientists at the government’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg collaborated with Chinese scientists on some of the world’s most dangerous viruses and pathogens. The scientists co-authored at least six studies from 2016 to 2020. We know that some of the research was paid for by China’s government, and that some of the scientists were part of China’s military,” Chong said in Parliament.
Chong also mentioned scientist Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng, and several Chinese students who were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in 2019 amid a police investigation. Qiu had sent samples of deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to China, and had travelled several times in official capacity to the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, which is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The government hasn’t released the reason for expelling the scientists from the lab, citing confidentiality and privacy obligations.
“We assume the government is ensuring the safety and security of Canadians until information comes to our attention that says otherwise,” Chong said. “When this happens, we have a responsibility to investigate, to obtain information, to find out exactly what happened in order to hold the government accountable, and to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated in the future.”
However, the government hasn’t been forthcoming in the investigation, according to Chong, adding that the Public Health Agency of Canada failed to submit the unredacted documents on March 31 and May 10 when the Commons Committee on Canada-China committee (CACN) requested them.
“In both cases, we were careful to ensure that any documents received would be reviewed by the committee in camera with the law clerk to prevent anything injurious to national security, and any details of an ongoing criminal investigation from being made public.”
But “the government has failed to comply with both the committee’s orders, and that brings us to today,” he added.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the federal government is “keeping Canadians in the dark.”
“We don’t know how scientists with ties to the Chinese military received multiple security clearances. We don’t know how the scientists got approval to send virus samples to China as the world commits to investigating the source of the coronavirus. Why is this liberal government covering things up?” he asked.
Bloc MP Stephane Bergeron suggested the federal government is trying to hide something.
“But we can begin to understand is that there’s a certain cavalier attitude from the government when we’re trying to deepen our understanding of what happened,” he said. “Information is not being provided by invoking fallacious reasons that really don’t hold up.”
The motion, if adopted, will see the CACN summoning Health Minister Patty Hajdu to appear before the committee.