June 24, 2021
For the first time in Canadian history, a government is suing Parliament to try and conceal the secret records dealing with the top security given to Chinese scientists at a federal bio lab in Winnipeg, says Blacklock’s Reporter.
One NDP MP likened the scandal to Watergate.
“I think there are a few members of this committee who are old enough to remember Watergate,” New Democrat MP Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) told the Commons health committee.
“I certainly do. It’s a little harder to recognize when it’s close to home.
“If the House is demanding production and the executive says ‘no,’ who wins that battle in the end?” asked Davies.
“Ultimately the House,” replied Philippe Dufresne, the Commons law clerk who acts as Parliament’s counsel.
Dufresne confirmed cabinet filed a Federal Court challenge naming the Speaker as defendant. The application asks that a federal judge seal records concerning the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. The Commons on June 2 voted 179-149 to order release of records to its counsel.
“I can confirm I’ve been instructed by the Speaker of the House of Commons to challenge the jurisdiction of the Court in this matter,” said Dufresne.
“Has this ever happened before?” asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel-Garner (Calgary Nose Hill).
“To my knowledge it has not,” replied Dufresne.
“My understanding is Parliament is immune from Federal Court intervention, is that correct?” asked Rempel-Garner.
“If a matter falls under parliamentary privilege then the House will have exclusive authority,” replied Dufresne.
“That is the position I will be taking.”
“Regardless of political stripe, Parliament is supreme and we have a right to this information,” said Rempel-Garner.
“When the House or the committee orders this information, it is not up to the government to try and sue the Speaker of the House of Commons.”
Attorney General David Lametti said Wednesday night he sought to conceal the records under the Evidence Act in the name of national security.
“It’s not going to be a decision that is partisan in any way,” said Lametti, who added: “I will approach this as attorney general in a non-partisan manner. I will never play politics with national security.”
The secret records concern the hiring of scientists, including one affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, and husband and wife Keding Chang and Xiangguo Qiu who were fired January 20 after RCMP raided the Winnipeg lab. Internal emails disclosed to date show Chinese staff in Winnipeg were contacted for collaborative research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where many think the COVID-19 virus originated.
“These scientists co-authored at least six studies from 2016 to 2020,” Conservative MP Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.) earlier told the Special Commons Committee on Canada-China Relations.
“We know some of the research was paid for by China’s government and that some of these scientists were part of China’s military.”