The Counter Signal has reached out to every single major party asking whether they are willing to commit to releasing critical documents related to the firing of two scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory but have yet to receive any confirmed commitment.
Specifically, we asked either a spokesperson or MP of each party the following:
“If elected, would your government commit to releasing unredacted versions of the documents called for by Parliament concerning the firing of two scientists from the high-security Winnipeg lab to the public?”
Spokespersons for the Green Party, Bloc Quebecois, and NDP did not reply to our question at all.
Nor did Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP and Shadow Minister for Health. If the CPC won the election, it’s likely Rempel would control this file.
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) got back to our team but only said they were willing to investigate the issue later.
“[Maxime Bernier] hasn’t made any public statement about this question, but of course, we would launch an inquiry into this whole issue and do what is necessary to get to the bottom of it,” a PPC spokesperson said.
It's strange – I have reached out to every political party so far (including the PPC), and I can't find a single one that will commit to releasing the Winnipeg Biolab documents that parliament requested before the election. I wonder why that is.
— Keean Bexte (@TheRealKeean) September 14, 2021
While the Liberal Party did not initially respond to our inquiry, TCS Editor-in-Chief Keean Bexte headed to the English-language debate to ask PM Justin Trudeau personally. You can find this exchange below.
The two scientists in question are Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, who many believe leaked data to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — and specifically to the infamous Wuhan virology lab — as part of a long-term espionage mission in Canada’s only Level 4 laboratory.
This case is significant as a Level 4 laboratory handles some of the deadliest diseases known to both animals and man and contains research critical to national security.
“It appears that what you might well call Chinese agents infiltrated one of the highest prized national security elements when it comes to biosecurity and biodefence,” Christian Leuprecht, a security expert and professor at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University, stated in June.
Of course, a spokesperson for the CCP denied the allegations, simply stating that “China and Canada have some scientific cooperation which is quite normal and should not be politicized.”
This case is extra suspicious as, despite neither scientist being formally charged — possibly because it would threaten ties between Canada and China — both are still under investigation.
Leuprecht believes that the RCMP has not charged the scientists because the government may be covering for more significant security issues, including allies’ roles in the overall investigation.
“This would also explain why you haven’t charged them, because once you charge them, then eventually you have to put people on trial. And when you put people on trial, then you have to disclose the evidence that you have. So, the government might quite intentionally be trying to keep this sort of relatively below the radar as much as it can,” he said.
Moreover, the manner in which the two scientists were fired raises additional concerns.
In July 2019, the two were shockingly stripped of all laboratory clearance and personally escorted out of the lab only months after Qiu facilitated the transfer of deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. This effective termination is after having worked at the lab for years. The two were formally fired in January 2020.
Sources also told the CBC that several computers were seized, a lab logbook was missing, and Qiu was prevented from taking trips to China after that.
While these speculations are still just that — speculative — what makes the case even more bizarre is how the Trudeau government chose to handle documents related to the case.
They fought to hide them from parliament.
Following the two scientists’ firings, the Trudeau government consistently refused to comply with House of Commons orders to produce unredacted documents related to firing the two Winnipeg lab scientists for the special Commons committee on Canada-China relations to review.
House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota confirmed this in July.
The reasoning behind the Trudeau government’s decision was that releasing these documents would create a significant national security concern.
As Global News reported at the time, “In defiance of a House order passed earlier this month, it has instead provided them to the all-party National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, whose members must have top security clearance and are bound to secrecy.”
On August 17, the Trudeau government ended the ongoing Federal Court case, which had stifled members of parliament from reading the case documents.
That sounds great — freedom of information triumphs — but there is only one problem:
Trudeau called a snap election two days earlier.
This decision led to the immediate dissolution of government and, consequently, the Commons order to produce the documents. Thus, the case might as well be void.
Mathew Clancy, a spokesman for the Conservative election campaign, called the snap election and abandonment of the case “another attempt by Justin Trudeau to cover up the truth about the Winnipeg lab documents.”
Moreover, Rota, both the House of Commons speaker who was fighting Trudeau to release the documents and a Liberal MP, may have jeopardized his own re-election had he pursued it. So, he, too, gave up the fight.
Thus, the documents remain unreleased. And if Trudeau wins a majority government, he will have enough power to keep the documents hidden indefinitely — at least until he leaves office.
On September 10, during the Q&A section following the English-language debate, Bexte finally got his time to grill Trudeau on his handling of the Winnipeg lab case.
“Mr. Trudeau,” Bexte began, “there has been some speculation that this poorly timed election has been called in part so that you can stop parliament, the former parliament, from procuring documents that they’re constitutionally allowed to have in regards to the Communist Party of China infiltrating the Winnipeg Lab that you are in control of — that you’re responsible for.”
“So, I want to know is it in Canada’s national interest that you’re protecting those documents? Is it in China’s national interest that you’re protecting those documents? Is it in your personal political interest that you’re protecting those documents,” asked Bexte.
“What are you trying to hide from not just Canadians but the world?”
Of course, Trudeau began his response with the typical political word salad that he is infamous for before getting to the point.
NEW: Here was my question to the Prime Minister – and by the looks of it – it hit him like a two by four. pic.twitter.com/6CEHWklwHr
— Keean Bexte (@TheRealKeean) September 10, 2021
“… as a commitment we made in 2015,” Trudeau said, “we moved forward with something that Conservatives had always resisted: oversight by parliamentarians over our national security agencies.”
“And the national security and intelligence agency — of uh, uh, — sorry, Committee of Parliamentarians actually works,” Trudeau said, stumbling. “And we granted them full access to all the highly secure documents so as they could see the decisions that our security professionals took and not put at risk the national security of Canada.”
“Parliamentarians need to be able to do their work, which we have enabled, while we protect Canada’s national security from China and from others,” Trudeau concluded.
To the uninformed, this response may seem perfectly reasonable. However, it only underlines the fundamental problem outlined throughout this article.
Every MP does not have access to the unredacted documents; instead, they first need to get a top level security clearance, need to go through the Committee, and be bound to secrecy — so that they cannot inform the public of the document’s contents — before they get anywhere near the truth of what happened.
In reality, it was a total non-answer.
Thus, the question remains, “What [is Trudeau] trying to hide from not just Canadians, but the world?”