Geoff Regan presided over the Special Committee meeting on March 31, 2021. This meeting was called by members of the committee to “discuss their request for information and documents from the Public Health Agency of Canada”.
Garnett Genuis was the first to speak. “I move the following motion; that the committee order the production of all information and documents in the possession of the Public Health Agency of Canada or any subsidiary organizations relating to the transfer of Ebola and Henipa virus’ to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in March, 2019; and the subsequent revocation of security clearance for and termination of the employment of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and Keating Chang. Provided that, A) these documents be deposited with the clerk of the committee in an unredacted form within 10 days of the adoption of this order.
“B)The committee requests the law clerk and parliamentary council to provide advice in writing in relation to whether and how to release all or some of this information and documents publicly.
“And C) until it has considered the advice law at the clerk’s advice, the committee keep the information and documents confidential. Except they may be shared with the office of the law clerk and parliamentary council as required per the advice requested under paragraph B.”
Genuis goes on to describe the situation that was outlined above. He discusses the fact that deadly diseases were indeed sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This specific lab is connected to the Chinese military. This military is involved in “Gain of Function experiments.” These experiments attempt to make viruses “more deadly or more contagious for research purposes.”
He informs the committee that there have been protocol concerns surrounding this lab that have been previously reported by “American officials”. Genuis tells us this information needs to be questioned and that these questions need to be asked under the context of the Canada China relationship.
Since then scientists from the Winnipeg location were let go for “Policy breaches”.
Genuis also explains that in a previous meeting certain questions were not answered as witness Ian Stuart, President to the Public Health Agency of Canada, refused to answer them. Even though some questions were not directed at specific individuals but more so general inquiries into the situation. As Genuis points out this actually goes against the constitution as Canadians have a right to know what is going on.
Micheal Chong then stepped to the plate and discussed a letter written by Ian Stuart that basically stated he could not release the requested documents and information. His reasoning was that there was personal information involved and that the privacy act kept him from releasing it. Stuart insisted that the only way he could release that information was if the person it was referencing allowed for the release of the documents.
Chong says this is simply not true. “The same paragraph of the Privacy Act, Article 82c… “subject to any other act of parliament personal information under the control of a government institution may be disclosed for the purpose of complying with a subpoena or warrant issued or order made by a court person or body with jurisdiction to compel the production of information, or for complying with the rules of court relating to the production of information’... the Privacy act was written with the constitution in mind.”
Jack Harris then read out a letter from law clerk which also spoke to the fact that the privacy of these documents is not limited by the house of commons rules and procedures or by law.
Harris also addresses the fact that after a ruling was made in an attempt to retrieve this information a committee with members from all parties was formed. This committee was entitled to look at the documents, ended up not being permitted to look at these documents. They would pass the documents to a third party, in this case former Chief Justice Frank Yamaguchi. He would then look over the documents before making them available for the committee. Harris did not agree with this method and believed other measures could have been taken.
Robert Oliphant of the liberal party was next in line. Although he agrees with the parliamentary right to request information, he does follow the practice that a waiver should be obtained by an individual whose personal information could be shared.
Oliphant then expressed his similar surrounding Speaker Milliken during a ruling about the Afghan detainee. “Speaker Milliken was very judicious in that ruling and he felt that public interest had to come into the responsibility that parliamentarians maintain… That public interest is not always us exercising to the full extent of the person of the rights and privileges we do have… I will always want to relate the right of parliament and it’s committees to call upon witnesses and the production of papers. We have that right we should always retain it. However, like Mr. Milliken in his ruling… I think we need to find the most appropriate to exercise our right and our authority in a way that does not undermine the public good.”