Public Health Agency President Iain Stewart

Public Health Agency President Iain Stewart

The president of the Public Health Agency, Iain Stewart, faces censure for contempt of Parliament over the hiring of a husband-wife team of Chinese scientists at a federal bio lab in Winnipeg, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

The PHA defied MPs in refusing to disclose documents concerning an RCMP raid that led to the researchers’ firing January 20.

“People do sneak through,” a Liberal cabinet appointee said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Commons Speaker Anthony Rota ruled the PHA had no right to conceal records from MPs.

“It is for the House and not for the government to decide,” said Rota, adding it was clear the PHA defied a House summons.

“There are precedents that support censure.”

Rota said all MPs have a “fundamental” right to compel documents, “even those with national security implications.”

The PHA had defied three parliamentary orders compelling release of files in the case.

“Three strikes and you’re out,” said Conservative MP Gérard Deltell (Louis-St. Laurent, Que.), Opposition House Leader, adding the Commons must find answers.

“What happened in this laboratory?” said Deltell.

The National Microbiology Laboratory fired Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Chang on January 20 amid an RCMP security probe. The husband and wife had collaborated with Chinese state-run agencies, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Other Chinese researchers dismissed from the Winnipeg lab after their security clearance was revoked included a scientist with the People’s Liberation Army.

Many believe the COVID-19 virus leaked out of the lab in Wuhan.

Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo (Ont.) said the incident raised questions “given the Chinese Communist Party’s well-established record of intellectual property espionage as well as their aggressive and extremely dangerous bio-weapons program.”

“How were these scientists able to obtain secret level national security in the first place?” asked Ngo.

“More importantly, what else is the government trying to hide?”

“People do sneak through,” replied Sen. Marc Gold (Que.), Government Representative in the Senate.

“When that’s discovered, thankfully our security services and our government take appropriate measures to deal with it.”

“This is not a game,” said Deltell.

“It is about the fundamental and ancient powers of the House of Commons to act as the grand inquest of the nation. This is being openly defied, dismissed and mocked by the Liberal government. It is, in a word, treating the House with contempt.”

Deltell’s motion compels Stewart to appear in the Commons for formal censure, and requires the PHA to immediately surrender its investigation records.

Stewart, in March 22 testimony at the Commons Special Committee on Canada-China relations, refused to tell MPs why the Chinese scientists were fired.

“Why were they let go?” asked Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron (Montarville, Que.).

“I’m not really at liberty to talk about that, sir,” replied Stewart.

“What do you mean, you’re ‘not at liberty’ to talk about that?” said Bergeron.

“You’re in a parliamentary committee here.”

“Mr. Stewart, has there ever been a case where any government lab has fired scientists as a result of security breaches?” asked Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.).

“That’s a very difficult question to answer,” replied Stewart.

“Well, I’m glad you have a bloody senior office in this country where you’re supposed to account to parliamentarians and the Canadian people,” said Genuis.

“Now answer the damn question.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu testified Monday at the Special Committee that documents in the case could not be shown to MPs without “putting Canada’s national security at risk.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief

Dave Naylor is News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief of the Western Standard based in the Calgary Headquarters. He served as City Editor of the Calgary Sun & covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years.

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