Conservatives, NDP, Bloc demand Liberals release Winnipeg lab files

In a united front, opposition parties are urging the immediate release of uncensored documents regarding the dismissal of two scientists at the national microbiology lab amid allegations that they collaborated with China. 

The Conservatives, New Democrats, and Bloc Québécois collectively pressed on Thursday for the documents to be released as soon as possible. The push aligned with the recommendations of a special committee of MPs who reviewed the files and advocated for the content to be released publicly.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre joined the call with a post on X

“Trudeau must release the documents related to what happened in Winnipeg. No more hiding. No more excuses. End the coverup,” he said. 

The NDP and Bloc also joined Poilievre in his call for release. 

“The NDP urges the government to comply with the recommendation of the special committee in charge of evaluating the information on the firing of the two scientists and release the documents,” said NDP House Leader Peter Julian.

Bloc Spokesman Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous called for the release of the documents, as recommended by the committee.

“It should be done in the next few days, and we encourage the government to do it as quickly as possible,” he said. 

The special committee of MPs assigned to review the censored documents said that most of the information redacted from Public Health Agency of Canada documents appears to have been withheld to shield the organization from embarrassment rather than to protect national security.

According to a Feb. 19 letter acquired by the Globe and Mail, the committee is recommending the majority of the documents be made public. The letter was sent to House leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc. 

The recommendation says that the records be made public at the next sitting of the House of Commons, which is set to resume next week. 

An unnamed source, for protection against prosecution under the Security of Information Act, with direct knowledge of the material, said that uncovered information would reveal that scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, provided confidential scientific information to China.

Prior to being fired in 2021, the two scientists had their security clearances revoked and were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg in July 2019.

The documents regarding the dismissal of the two scientists were withheld for national security reasons, claimed the government. 

The government withholding documents led opposition parties to vote to declare the Liberals in contempt of Parliament. The Liberals took then-House speaker Anthony Rota to court to prevent the release of the documents. The case was never heard because the 2021 election was called — an election now under suspicion of Chinese electoral interference.

The letter determined that the majority of records from the PHAC related to the firing of the scientists should be released to Canadians.

Committee members acknowledged that documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warranted enhanced protection against disclosure, yet they proposed alternative methods like detailed summaries to convey information.

The federal government has to decide whether to release the documents or not. 

“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,” said the letter from the committee.

Dr. Qiu authored over 120 scientific papers from 2000 to 2021, many in partnership with Chinese researchers. Documents reveal that four months before their removal from the lab, Dr. Qiu was involved in sending two viruses to the Wuhan institute — Ebola and Henipah. 

Qiu was previously accused of selling state secrets, contributing to creating Chinese bioweapons programs, and even helping create Covid-19. 

Qiu previously collaborated during her Ebola research alongside Major-General Chen Wei of the People’s Liberation Army, a military wing of China’s ruling Communist Party. The General has been described as the nation’s ultimate expert in biological and chemical weapons defenses.

The agency asserts that their termination was not connected to these virus transfers. 

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