Poilievre Says Government Should Release Key Winnipeg Lab Docs Amid Allegations of Info Leak to China

Poilievre Says Government Should Release Key Winnipeg Lab Docs Amid Allegations of Info Leak to China
The microbiology lab at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Canada on Dec. 8, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Mikaela MacKenzie)
Matthew Horwood

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the federal government to release all documents related to the firing of two scientists at Canada’s top infectious disease laboratory, after a committee researching the issue said the Public Health Agency of Canada withheld information to shield itself from embarrassment.

“Trudeau must release the documents related to what happened in Winnipeg. No more hiding. No more excuses. End the coverup,” Mr. Poilievre said on X on Feb. 22.
According to a Feb. 19 letter obtained by The Globe and Mail, which was also sent out to the House leaders of all major parties, the special committee recommended the Public Health Agency of Canada make all documents public. “The information appears to be mostly about protecting the organization from embarrassment for failures in policy and implementation, not legitimate national security concerns, and its release is essential to hold the Government to account,” the letter reads.

While MPs on the committee said they understood that Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents needed to be protected, they asked for solutions to be used to convey the information, such as summarizing it. The federal government will ultimately decide whether to release the documents.

Back in July 2019, the two scientists had their security clearances revoked and were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. They were later fired in January 2021, but the federal government said it could not release documents detailing the reasons for their dismissal due to reasons of national security.

The two scientists were never charged with any wrongdoing, despite being under investigation by the RCMP, and according to The Globe and Mail returned to China in June 2021. The RCMP was also investigating whether the scientists had given Canadian intellectual property to the Chinese Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab that some intelligence agencies have said Sars-CoV-2 likely came from.

After the refusal to share the documents, opposition parties voted to declare the Liberals in contempt of Parliament. The federal government then took House Speaker Anthony Rota to court in order to prevent the release of the documents, but abandoned this after the 2021 election was called.

After that election, the Liberals proposed a way to give access to the documents, but opposition parties were not in favour. The Conservatives did not support providing the documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, as it reports to the prime minister and not the House of Commons.

The Bloc Québécois also questioned whether the Liberals were providing the offer in “good faith,” as they previously attempted to stonewall the production of documents.