Conservatives reject Liberal proposal to see docs on fired Winnipeg lab scientists

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The Conservatives have rejected a proposed settlement to settle a long-running dispute over the disclosure of secret documents related to the shootings of two scientists at Canada’s highest security laboratory.

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Conservative House leader Gerard Deltel said on Wednesday that the government’s proposal was “months late”.

She pointed out that in the last parliamentary session Canada’s Public Health Agency had ignored a Commons Committee and several House orders to present unread documents that led to the firing of scientists Jiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keiding Cheng. could shed light on it.

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“Parliament’s will is clear and has not changed,” Deltell told the Commons.

Both scientists were pulled out of Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory in July 2019 and later fired last January.

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Last week, Government House leader Mark Holland proposed a compromise: creating a special all-party committee to review the documents, with a panel of three former senior judges determining what could be made public without endangering national security. could.

At the time, Holland argued that Stephen Harper’s former Conservative government had adopted a similar process in 2010 to allow lawmakers to view unverified documents relating to the alleged abusive treatment of detainees handed over to Afghan officials by the Canadian military. .

But Deltell said it’s an “apples and oranges” comparison. In the Afghan captive case, opposition parties were seeking to see 40,000 pages of uncensored documents that could endanger the lives of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Conversely, he said opposition parties put together in the previous parliament demanding more than 500 pages of uncertified PHAC documents, which would be determined by the parliamentary law clerk whether could be safely released, although MPs publicly Will retain the right to issue from the modified material.

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Speaker Anthony Rota sided with the opposition parties in June and ruled that the Commons and its committees have the right to order the production of any document regardless of national security or privacy laws.

The fight culminated with the then head of the PHAC, Ian Stewart, being reprimanded by Rota in front of the Bar of the Commons for refusing to comply with orders to produce unrestricted documents. He was the first non-MP to be subject to such a procedure in more than a century.

The government applied a few days later to the Federal Court of Canada to block the release of documents it maintained would be detrimental to international relations, national defense or national security.

When the election was called in August, the order to lay documents along with all other business before the House was abolished with the dissolution of Parliament.

Far from compromising, Deltell said on Wednesday that the Liberal government’s approach was “to deny, then to subvert and, finally, to prosecute the House of Commons in an entirely shocking and unprecedented court application”. Used to be.

He reiterated a point of privilege raised last month in the opening week of the new parliamentary session, asking Rota to rule that a court application constitutes contempt of parliament. Should Rota agree, conservatives intend to move a motion backed by other opposition parties to issue warrants to seize the PHAC documents.

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Hollande said he was “disappointed” at the Conservatives’ rejection of his proposed deal. And he accused them of being careless and irresponsible towards national security.

He said in an interview, “If we’re creating a situation where we’re treating national security documents like Canadian Tire passengers and allowing them to fly everywhere around this place, that’s national security.” It’s very harmful.” Stop sharing security information with Canada and even endanger the lives of Canadians involved in national security.

“Coming from conservatives, a party that was in power, it is incredibly disappointing to have such a reckless and irresponsible position on national security documents.”

Hollande said he expects the NDP and Block Québécois to be more reasonable. He would need the support of at least one of them to proceed with the proposed deal.

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Opposition parties’ demands for documents include material related to the transfer of the deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in March 2019, which is overseen by Qiu.

Stewart, who is no longer the head of PHAC, had assured lawmakers that the transfer had nothing to do with the subsequent firing of Qiu and her husband and had nothing to do with COVID-19.

The coronavirus first appeared in China’s Wuhan province and some believe it may have been accidentally released by the Institute of Virology, triggering a Granthshala pandemic.

Despite Stewart’s assurances, opposition parties continue to suspect a link and are determined to look for unverified documents.

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