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43rd PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 108

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 1, 2021




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 150
No. 108
2nd SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

National Defence Act

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 96 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, c.35, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the third independent review by the Hon. Morris J. Fish, C.C., Q.C., of the provisions and operations of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Petitions

Forest Industry 

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present petition 11279386 regarding the ongoing travesty of logging the last remaining old growth in Canada.
     Whereas the climate crisis requires action by all levels of government and industry, old-growth forests provide immeasurable benefits, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity, culture, recreation, food and more. Of the remaining 2.7% of the original high-productivity, old-growth forests in British Columbia, 75% are still slated to be logged.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to work with the provinces and first nations to immediately halt logging of endangered old-growth ecosystems, fund the long-term protection of old-growth ecosystems as a priority for Canada's climate action plan and reconciliation with indigenous peoples, support value-added forestry initiatives in partnership with first nations to ensure Canada's forestry industry is sustainable and based on the harvesting of second- and third-growth forests, ban the export of raw logs and maximize resource use for local jobs, and ban the use of whole trees for wood pellet biofuel production.

Income Tax Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise virtually today and present a petition on behalf of the residents of Haida Gwaii.
    The petitioners urge this government to amend the Income Tax Act and restore the full northern residents tax deduction for residents of the islands of Haida Gwaii. This, of course, is on account of the remoteness of the islands; they are a full seven-hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert. By extension, there is a very high cost of living borne by people who live there.
    Residents received the full deduction until the criteria was reworked in the 1990s. Omitting Haida Gwaii was an oversight and should be restored.

Conversion Therapy  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House of Commons today to present a petition brought forward by Canadians who are concerned about the government's Bill C-6.
    The petitioners call for the House of Commons to take a number of actions: one, ban coercive, degrading practices that would try to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity; two, ensure that no laws discriminate against Canadians by limiting the services they can receive based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; three, allow parents to speak with their own children about sexuality and gender and to set house rules about sex and relationships; four, allow free and open conversations about sexuality and sexual behaviour; and five, avoid criminalizing professional and religious counselling voluntarily requested and consented to by Canadians.

  (1010)  

Forest Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present a petition today on behalf of many residents of Vancouver Island.
    As many parliamentarians will know, there have been many arrests recently at Fairy Creek, a valley that still has old-growth forests, of real importance and significance to British Columbia. The petitioners note that only 2.7% of British Columbia's old-growth forest remains, and it is being logged at an unsustainable rate.
    The petitioners are asking the federal government to recognize the importance of old-growth forests in any climate plan; recognize the importance of old-growth forests for biodiversity; halt the logging of old growth and specifically halt the export of raw logs; and ban the practice of taking whole forests and converting them to wood pellets for biofuel alleged to be a climate policy, which is actually degrading the capacity of our forests for sequestration.

Fuel Prices  

     Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present virtually petition e-3233. The petition has 818 signatures and was submitted out of great concern by many constituents in Kootenay—Columbia regarding the significant increase and inconsistency in fuel prices throughout my riding.
    The petitioners, therefore, call on the Government of Canada to focus on the affordability aspects of fuel as it has done for telecom services, investigate through the Federal Competition Act any evidence of anti-competitive conduct in the fuel sector and move to protect consumers from price gouging by fuel suppliers.
    I support this petition and present it to the House of Commons on behalf of my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I present a petition on behalf of my New Brunswick constituents calling for Parliament to end the abhorrent practice of sex-selective abortions in Canada. Abortions based on gender are currently legally permitted in Canada, yet there is a broad consensus to prohibit them as 84% of Canadians agree that sex-selective abortions should not be permitted.
    I hope the House of Commons will reflect this consensus when we vote Wednesday on Bill C-233.

Criminal Code  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.
    The first petition results out of a very troublesome crime that happened in Niagara where someone was run over by their own vehicle that was being stolen. The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to review the laws related to trespassing and theft in order to include more severe punishments to further deter individuals from committing these crimes.
    That petition is e-3061 and was signed by almost 1,500 petitioners.

Pharmaceuticals  

    The second petition I want to read into the House is petition e-3265. This was signed by almost 5,000 people who are physicians, scientists and other concerned citizens and residents of Canada. They call upon the Government of Canada to urgently examine the evidence in favour of ivermectin and give due consideration to making ivermectin available immediately to Canadians as a schedule II medication, which can be obtained directly from pharmacists. They point out the fact that there are several countries in the world, including Japan, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Egypt, that are already using ivermectin.

Questions on the Order Paper


Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Documents Related to the Transfer of Ebola and Henipah Viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology  

    That an order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada in response to the March 31, 2021, and May 10, 2021, orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, respecting the transfer of Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in March 2019, and the subsequent revocation of security clearances for, and termination of the employment of, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and Dr. Keding Cheng, provided that:
(a) these documents shall be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, in both official languages, within 48 hours of the adoption of this order;
(b) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall promptly thereafter notify the Speaker, who shall forthwith inform the House, whether he is satisfied the documents were produced as ordered;
(c) the Minister of Health shall be ordered to appear before the special committee, for at least three hours, at a televised meeting, to be held within two weeks of the adoption of this order, to discuss the documents and the matters referred to in them;
(d) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall confidentially review the documents with a view to redacting information which, in his opinion, could reasonably be expected to compromise national security or reveal details of an ongoing criminal investigation, other than the existence of an investigation;
(e) the Speaker shall cause the documents, as redacted pursuant to paragraph (d), to be laid upon the table at the next earliest opportunity and, after being tabled, they shall stand referred to the special committee;
(f) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall discuss with the special committee, at an in camera meeting, to be held within two weeks of the documents being tabled pursuant to paragraph (e), what information he redacted pursuant to paragraph (d); and
(g) the special committee may, after hearing from the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel pursuant to paragraph (f), decide to make public any of the information which was redacted, as well as, in lieu of making such information public, rely on such information for the purpose of making findings and recommendations in any subsequent report to the House, provided that, for the purpose of this paragraph, the documents deposited pursuant to paragraph (a) shall be deemed to have been referred to the special committee.

  (1015)  

[Translation]

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

[English]

    The government is responsible for national security. It is also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of Canadians. We in this House assume the government is protecting national security, and we assume the government is ensuring the safety and security of Canadians, until information comes to our attention that says otherwise.
    When this happens, we have a responsibility to investigate, obtain information and find out exactly what happened in order to hold the government accountable and ensure these mistakes are not repeated in the future. This is why I have introduced this motion.
    We have information that this country's national security has been compromised. We have information that the safety and security of Canadians has been compromised. What information is this? We know seven government scientists at the government's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg collaborated with Chinese scientists on some of the world's most dangerous viruses and pathogens.
    These scientists co-authored at least six studies from 2016 to 2020. 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. We know one of the Canadian government scientists, Dr. Qiu, made at least five trips to China in a two-year period alone to collaborate on virus research, including working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to train scientists and technicians there up to a level 4 standard, allowing them to handle the world's most deadly viruses and pathogens.
    We know the same scientist shipped deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology on March 31, 2019. We know Canada's national security agency, CSIS, raised alarm bells about all of this. We know the two government scientists at the lab, Dr. Qiu and Dr. Cheng, along with students we believe to be Chinese nationals, were escorted out of the lab by the RCMP on July 5, 2019. We also know that Dr. Qiu and Dr. Cheng were subsequently terminated in January of this year.
    We know Dr. Matthew Gilmour, scientific director general of the lab, quit suddenly on Friday, May 15, just eight weeks into the global pandemic, and that Ms. Tina Namiesniowski, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, suddenly resigned on Friday, September 18, while Parliament was prorogued.
    We know President Biden said last week that there are two likely theories on the origin of the coronavirus. One theory is it emerged from human contact with an infected animal. The other theory is it emerged from an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the same lab the government's lab in Winnipeg collaborated with.
    President Biden has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to report back to him in 90 days, on August 24, as to which theory is most likely, and he ordered that elected members of the U.S. Congress be kept fully apprised of the investigation so the people's representatives would be aware of national security issues.
    These are the things we know. It is clear from what little we do know that the government has failed to protect Canada's national security and has failed to ensure the safety and security of our fellow citizens.
    What we do not know is exactly why Dr. Qiu and Dr. Cheng were fired. We do not know the totality of the collaboration between the Winnipeg lab and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We do not know if there were shipments of other viruses or other materials, such as reagents, from Winnipeg to Wuhan.
    We do not know how a Chinese military scientist Feihu Yan of the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Medical Science was granted access to work in the government's Winnipeg lab, which appears to be contrary to government policy, or how the students escorted out of the lab by the RCMP, purportedly Chinese nationals, gained access to that same lab.

  (1020)  

[Translation]

    We do not know exactly why the two most senior executives of the Public Health Agency of Canada suddenly resigned during the pandemic, on May 15 and September 18 respectively.

[English]

    It is because of the things known and unknown that we have asked the government for more information. We have been responsible in seeking this information. We began our request for these documents at committee, at the Canada-China committee, on two separate occasions: March 31 and May 10. The committee ordered the government to produce documents about the firing of these two government scientists and about the transfers of viruses from Winnipeg to Wuhan.
    In both cases, we were careful to ensure that any documents received would be reviewed by the committee in camera with the law clerk to prevent anything injurious to national security or any details of an ongoing criminal investigation from being made public. The government has failed to comply with both committee orders.
    That brings us to today. I have introduced this motion so the House of Commons, as a whole, can put its full weight behind an order to the government to produce these documents. The motion in front of us today ensures that nothing injurious to national security and no details of an ongoing criminal investigation would be made public.
    Some might say that the RCMP should investigate this. However, an investigation by the RCMP would be narrowly limited to violations of statute law and would not look at broader concerns about national security and foreign policy.
    Some might say this information is best given to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. That would be wrong because the government should not be investigating itself. While NSICOP is made up of parliamentarians, unlike the United Kingdom's intelligence and security committee, it is not a committee of Parliament. It is not a committee of this place.
    Committee members are appointed and serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, including the Chair. The government has the power to terminate the committee's reviews. It is also allowed to withhold information from the committee. The Prime Minister has the power to review and amend the committee's reports before they are made public.
    In short, NSICOP is accountable to the government. Under our constitution, the government is accountable to this House. It is to this House that the government should deliver the documents.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    It is unfortunate that we are using precious time in the House to debate this motion. This question should have been addressed at committee, but the government ignored two committee orders, so we had no other choice but to bring this matter to the attention of the House of Commons as a whole.

[English]

    It is also unfortunate for the government that we are here today, for this was a government that came to office promising to do things differently, promising an open and accountable government, promising to respect Parliament and promising to ensure greater democratic oversight. This is a government headed by a Prime Minister who voted for the motion ordering the previous Conservative government to release the Afghan detainee documents and who now does the opposite of what he said in opposition.
    This is a government that says it supports a transparent and independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus in China, which is so important to the world if we are to prevent the next pandemic. The problem is that China has not been co-operating with the investigation and has not been forthcoming with information about the lab in Wuhan. It has been stalling and refusing to release the information needed for the investigation.
    The irony is that the government, whose Winnipeg lab collaborated with the Wuhan lab, is also stalling and refusing to release the information needed for the investigation about the Winnipeg lab and its collaboration with the Wuhan lab.
    We live in a world today where there is a great clash between two ideals. On the one hand, authoritarian governments such as China, with their new-found prosperity, wish to spread their model of authoritarianism to much of the world. On the other hand, democracies like ours are on the defensive. The time-tested principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law will triumph once again in the future, but only if we are courageous enough to take a stand for them in the present.
    That is why this motion must pass. I ask all members of this House to support this motion to order the government to produce these documents.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for introducing his motion and I will say at the outset that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of it.
    That being said, one small part of it bothers us a bit. This motion would give a lot of power to the committee, including the power to make public information that would have been redacted and would not necessarily be of interest to the public. We are obviously not against disseminating information that is of interest to the public, far from it, because it is important in terms of transparency, but giving this power to committee members to act solely on their good judgment, is that not going a bit too far?
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.
    Madam Speaker, we put a requirement in the motion to have the Clerk of the House review the documents before discussing them with the special committee in order to ensure that no information regarding national security or a criminal investigation is made public.

  (1030)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I first want to thank the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills for his motion. It comes from a unanimous decision of our Canada-China committee, which I fully support, and our party will be supporting it today. I would also like to say that I am particularly pleased to see that it comes from the Conservative member.
     I know the member was present and part of the government at the time, in 2009 and 2010, when Speaker Milliken made a ruling about the powers of Parliament to have access to documents that were in the control of the executive. The member's government opposed that. Am I able to conclude that his party has changed its views on the powers of Parliament and parliamentarians to have access to documents of this nature?
    Madam Speaker, my colleague's question is an important one.
    There was a problem with the motion of December 2009. The motion that called on the government to release the Afghan detainee documents at that time was an order of the House to immediately release them publicly and without redaction. The government's position at the time was that this would be injurious to national security and to the safety of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and those of our allies.
    This is why I have worded the motion today in a way that ensures that we protect national security and any ongoing criminal investigations. The motion today is different from the one in December of 2009.
    The member has pointed out Speaker Milliken's ruling of April of 2010. I supported that ruling. I believe it was a precedent-setting ruling and one that reinforced the long-standing privileges and rights of this House to get the information it needs from the government.
    Madam Speaker, when the documents were requested by committee, they were provided by the Department of Health. I think this member would know that the ministry is separate from the department or the government officials, who are the people who do not come and go. They are consistent between different ministers and different ministerial staff. They are the ones who redacted the documents that were originally given to the committee.
    Is this member, through this motion, saying that he does not have faith that the department officials, not the minister's staff, were able to produce the proper documents?
    Madam Speaker, I will answer the member's question by conveying what his colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said. He said that he had no confidence in the legal advice the justice department had provided to the Public Health Agency officials about the redaction of the documents.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate today and to share my time with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, who just demonstrated the importance of today's debate.
    We are also here today to talk about national security and access to information, access to evidence and documents that are very relevant to today's public debate. We are also going to talk about our work as MPs and the Prime Minister's dishonourable behaviour in this case.
    Let us remember that what we want today is to make public documents that are currently at the heart of a troubling situation for Canada's national security. These events occurred at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, an extremely important institution for our country, particularly during a pandemic.
    There is a relationship between the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Communist China regarding the transfer of viruses, the forced departure of two researchers from the Canadian lab and the departure of two executives from that same lab in Winnipeg.
    Let us review the facts. To varying extents, seven Canadian scientists were involved with Communist China in the events we are discussing today. A Chinese military scientist from the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Medical Sciences was authorized to work in the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
    Let us not forget that this story revolves around two researchers attached to the Winnipeg laboratory, Dr. Qiu and Dr. Cheng, who are a couple. This whole story revolves around them.
    In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Qiu travelled to China five times and co-operated directly with Chinese Communist regime researchers.
    On July 5, 2019, Dr. Qiu and Dr. Cheng were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg by RCMP officers. That was right when the pandemic was taking hold.
    On January 20, 2020, we learned that the two researchers were officially terminated by the National Microbiology Laboratory. They had top-level security clearances because they were working in a lab that was doing extremely important microbiology research, and CSIS revoked those clearances.
    We recognized that, on March 31, on board an Air Canada flight, two vials of a deadly virus were transferred from Canada to China to combat the Ebola and Henipah viruses. These vials came from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and were transferred to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We also know that, on May 15 and September 18, two executives at the National Microbiology Laboratory resigned.
    We are at the heart of Canadian scientific research into coronavirus; at the heart of the most important aspect of what we have experienced, scientifically, over the past year and a half; at the heart of an extremely important institution for Canada, the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
    Two key people were fired and removed from the lab under police escort and two executives at that lab are no longer employed there and tendered their resignation.
    Under the circumstances, we have duties to fulfill as parliamentarians. That is why the recently created Special Committee on Canada-China Relations took a look at the situation. On March 31, the committee called for the tabling of documents to have access to all the available information to understand what happened.
    How did two high-ranking scientists, with the highest security clearance, get fired and lose their security access? That seems fairly significant.

  (1035)  

    We asked for documents on March 31. On April 26, documents were submitted to the committee, but they were heavily redacted. The committee tried again, filing a second motion requesting the documents on May 10. Unfortunately, on May 20, we once again received heavily redacted documents.
    We want to be clear. Yes, we want the documents, but they should not be photocopied and made accessible to everyone. We will ask experts, people in the House of Commons who are familiar with this type of study, to assess whether there is a danger to national security or human life. If there is none, the documents must be made public. That is our approach.
    We worked on this issue in committee, unfortunately to no avail. We also asked questions in the House of Commons to get to the bottom of things and to find out where the government stands on this issue. It has refused all our requests for access to the relevant information. Every time we raise the issue, we are told that the two researchers no longer work at the National Microbiology Laboratory and that we cannot ask questions, since an investigation is under way. In the House, members are accountable.
    Last week, we asked the Prime Minister questions about this issue. I hate to say it, but he is still the Prime Minister of all Canadians. Unfortunately, he was unable to refrain from making vicious personal attacks, which is shameful for someone in his position.
    I would like to cite John Ibbitson’s article, which appeared yesterday in The Globe and Mail. Allow me to paraphrase. He quoted the Prime Minister, who said last week that he would like to recommend that the members of the Conservative Party, in their zeal to make personal attacks, not start to push too far into intolerance toward Canadians of diverse origins. John Ibbitson wrote that this was a foolish thing to say.
     Mr. Ibbitson goes on to say that we need to question this government's willingness to co-operate with China despite its misdeeds. It is irresponsible to slander the opposition for doing its job in asking why scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg were co-operating with Chinese scientists. That is from The Globe and Mail; those are not our words.
    The journalist then goes on to quote my hon. colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, who was especially shocked and upset by the Prime Minister's contemptuous comments about the Conservative Party and its representatives in the House. The Prime Minister made an offensive link between these legitimate questions and racism.
    My colleague said, and I quote:
...the Prime Minister conflated our legitimate concerns about national security with racism against Asian-Canadians. He spun an inflammatory narrative that implies Conservatives are stoking intolerance. By using this false narrative, he has cheapened and undermined the ongoing efforts to combat the rise of anti-Asian racism.
    The hon. member knows what she is talking about, having been personally affected by the Prime Minister's disgraceful comments. He associated pertinent questions from parliamentarians about national security with racism. When he could not explain further, he decided to attack by implying that our questions were fuelling racism. This is unbecoming of a Prime Minister. I would hope that today or later the Prime Minister would have the honour and dignity to recuse himself and acknowledge that he has gone too far.
    This is an important story, and we need to get to the bottom of it. What happened? What was the connection between the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and the Communist Chinese laboratory? How is it that two important researchers at the heart of virus research were fired and lost their security clearance? How is it that two important executives at this institute are no longer working there?
    Canadians deserve answers. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to release the documents, as requested in today's motion.

  (1040)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and the motion he has put before the House today.
    I would simply like him to tell us more specifically what criteria he thinks should be used for the disclosure or publication of official documents concerning public health or public safety.
    What criteria does he want to put forward to ensure that these documents are published, made public and accessible to the people of Canada?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his very pertinent question.
    Yes, we want access to the documents, but we do not want to jeopardize national security or the lives of people involved in this matter.
    That is why my colleague, who moved the motion, mentioned earlier that Speaker Milliken ruled in 2010 to allow the committee and parliamentarians to have access to certain documents. At that time, the Conservative Party was in power, and we said that we needed to be careful, because if we went as far as was requested, we would have jeopardized the lives of Afghan citizens and of Canadian soldiers involved in that operation.
    We want to get to the bottom of this situation without jeopardizing national security and Canadians' lives.

  (1045)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this is not the first time that we see the current Liberal government refusing to allow parliamentary oversight on very serious issues of the day and refusing to submit unredacted documents to committee. Does my colleague find this serial cover-up behaviour in any way transparent, as the Liberals insistently claim they are?
    Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to answer the question from my colleague, who was elected a year and a half ago in a British Columbia riding. I very much appreciate her hard work. I can assure members that she is doing a great job and working very hard on behalf of her constituents.
    What we have seen since 2015 is a government that is saying one thing and doing different things, especially when we talk about transparency. The Liberals' transparency is good when it is good for them. However, when we want to go deep into a real problem such as this issue, I do not know why the government is so protective of the truth and the reality, because this is not a political issue; this is an issue of national interest. There is no Conservative, no Liberal, no NDP, no Bloc, no whatever. We are all Canadians on this issue. We want to know the truth and the reality of the situation, and that has nothing to do with partisanship. We hope that today the Liberals will understand that.
    Madam Speaker, I wonder if my hon. colleague can comment on the remarks of Andy Ellis, the former CSIS assistant director of operations. He said it was “madness” for the Public Health Agency of Canada to be co-operating with the Chinese military and that it just shows “incredible naïveté”. I wonder if my hon. colleague could give his perspective on those comments.
    Madam Speaker, again, I want to say that I respect my colleague from Manitoba, who was elected a year and a half ago. He is doing a tremendously good job in the House of Commons, in his riding and, I can say, in our caucus.
    Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is so naive. However, we also have to remind everybody that the Prime Minister, when he was the opposition party leader, said that he had great admiration for the dictatorship of China. What a shame that is.
     We also have to remind everyone that a year and a half ago, when the problem of the pandemic situation arose, the first move by the Prime Minister was to knock at the door of CanSino to be sure to have a deal with China. We all know that six months later, it crashed. Yes, the Prime Minister could like the Chinese regime, but I hope he will not put China's interests first, before Canadians' interests.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address the motion of the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    As summer approaches, we are seeing a strong and steady decline in COVID-19 cases across Canada. Strict public health measures and ramped-up vaccination campaigns have pushed the national case count to its lowest level in weeks. In much of the country, the pandemic outlook is improving. COVID-19 infection rates have peaked in most areas of the country, followed by the slower decline in hospitalization rates.
    As members know, there are exceptions. In places where infection rates are still very high, such as in Manitoba, hospitalization rates have not yet begun to decline. That is because the average length of stay for people hospitalized with COVID-19 is two weeks. For those experiencing more severe illness, it is closer to three weeks. The number of hospitalized patients accumulates over time while infection rates remain high, but, as I said, the situation is improving in most areas of the country.
    With the steady decline of infection rates and strong and steady increases in vaccination rollout and uptake, we are on track for a better outdoor summer and a safer fall. That is great news for everyone, but we have to continue this momentum. The more people who get fully vaccinated, the safer it will be to ease restrictions and individual precautions. Only then can we get back to more interactions and activities, including spending more time together indoors.
    As immunity builds up across the population, keeping infection rates down is crucial. It is still important that Canadians continue to follow local public health advice, including when and where to maintain essential precautions, such as masking and spacing. Now is not the time to relax our measures. Doing so would increase the number of community-wide in-person contacts that would likely result in a resurgence of the virus.
    The experiences of other countries show the need to maintain strong public health measures as vaccines roll out. Easing measures must be done in a controlled and gradual way as COVID-19 infection rates decline.
     In the U.K., more than 70% of adults aged 18 or over have had at least one dose and over 45% are fully immunized. It is important to note that measures have been relaxed slowly and cautiously in that country. It is also worth remembering that the U.K. sustained the most restrictive measures until incidence rates were several times lower than they currently are in Canada.
    While countries with high vaccination rates are making great strides, some of them experienced resurgences along the way. Even the U.K. is still experiencing pockets of increased disease activity fuelled by variants of concern in areas with low vaccination coverage. In Canada, gradual and cautious lifting of restrictive measures can happen safely once infection rates are low. We will need to maintain vigilance everywhere, while vaccines continue to build up immunity across the Canadian population.
    Several conditions must be met before we consider easing restrictive public health measures. These are controlled transmission; sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity; a low number of cases, allowing for testing and tracing to cope with outbreaks and surges; and high vaccine coverage in at-risk populations and settings, such as congregate living for seniors.
    With a plan in place, public health measures could be eased in very low-risk settings. However, if modelling-based forecasts suggest a resurgence, an increase in COVID-19 positive cases or a declining adherence to public health measures, then public health measures should be reinstated. Public health measures should also be reinstated if the spread of variants of concern becomes increasingly prevalent.
    So far, Health Canada has authorized four different COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. Health Canada has also authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children 12 to 15 years of age. Each of these vaccines have been shown to be very effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. We are making excellent progress in distributing these vaccines to the provinces and territories, with deliveries increasing every week.

  (1050)  

    More than 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada since vaccination began in mid-December, providing 62% of eligible adults with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
    Indigenous communities and the territories have made excellent strides—

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, we have a motion before us and my hon. colleague is speaking about the progress of vaccination in Canada. She is completely off topic. I will therefore ask my colleague to speak about the motion before us.
    I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

[English]

    The hon. parliamentary secretary and all members know that there is some latitude during debate, however, the speeches must be relevant to the subject at hand. I am sure the hon. member will mention the wording in the opposition motion and ensure her speech is related to that.
    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, who I am sure will get to it very shortly.

  (1055)  

    Madam Speaker, it is surprising that in the middle of a health pandemic, members opposite are not invested in vaccinations and the state of where we are as a country. That is very concerning.
    Part of the groundwork I am laying is connected to the important work of the microbiology lab, so I absolutely will continue. However, this is important information for all Canadians.
    Indigenous communities and the territories have made excellent strides in increasing vaccination coverage. To date, more than three-quarters of adults in the three territories have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 66% have received two doses.
    A first dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides us with primary protection, but for maximum protection, we need a second immunity-boosting dose.
     The Government of Canada expects that by the end of the next two quarters, Canada will have received in Q2, end of June, more than 40 million cumulative doses and by Q3, end of September, more than 100 million cumulative doses. Looking ahead, we expect weekly shipments of 2.4 million Pfizer doses per week in June and close to 2.3 million doses weekly in July. Regarding Moderna, we are actively working with our colleagues at Public Service and Procurement Canada and the manufacturers to determine the delivery schedule and shipment sizes for June.
    Last month, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, announced that Canada had secured COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer for 2022 and 2023, with options—
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Again, on the point of relevance, the member seems to be referring to production orders in a completely different sense than what the motion talks about. The motion talks about the government not giving information to a committee. Now the House of Commons is debating that so we can hold the government to account.
     You were very clear, Madam Speaker, that the member should be directly linking her comments to the motion before us, yet that has not happened. I would ask you to rule again on whether the member is following it.
    Again, this is an important issue. I would hope the member opposite came prepared to talk about this issue and not her portfolio or other interests.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You were absolutely clear in your ruling. You said that there was some latitude. After you said that, the parliamentary secretary explained that she was laying the groundwork for what she deemed was important to the discussion.
    We can keep interrupting her all day long, but all these points of order do is push out possible speakers later in the day. Therefore, we should let the parliamentary secretary finish her speech.
    I greatly appreciate the attempt by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands to help me in my deliberations here.
    I want to remind the hon. parliamentary secretary, once again, that the speech really does have to be relevant to the motion at hand. Although there is some leniency in speaking about other matters that seem to be related, I would respectfully ask that she consider ensuring she makes reference to the motion throughout her speech.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, and I will say it again, part of our COVID pandemic response has been directly influenced and supported by the work of the microbiology lab, so it is quite important to talk about the significance of the pandemic during this debate.
    I would also point out that there were no interruptions when hon. members of the Conservative Party spoke about Afghanistan, which was not directly related to this motion either. I would ask for the same consideration and opportunity to talk about the global pandemic. I will continue to wrap up my comments on the motion, but it is important groundwork in relation to the work of our scientists.
    As we have stated before, we expect that COVID-19 vaccines will be available to every eligible Canadian who wants to be vaccinated by September. Let me assure everyone that the Government of Canada continues to hold regular discussions with provinces and territories, with a particular focus in the coming weeks on ensuring that capacity to administer vaccines is aligned with vaccine availability. This is just part of our commitment to provinces and territories that we stand together in the fight against COVID-19.
    We are continuously working with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure they have the help they need to manage outbreaks and keep people safe, from purchasing vaccines and personal protective equipment to boosting rapid testing and contact tracing. Testing and contact tracing is an area in which the microbiology lab is very much involved.
    In fact, $8 out of every $10 spent across our country to respond to the pandemic has come from the Government of Canada. Much of the support is being provided through the COVID-19 public health rapid surge capacity initiative. This initiative, in addition to the safe restart agreement, has provided the provinces and territories with more than $19 billion in federal investment. These investments support health care systems, capacity testing and contact tracing, and other social services for Canadians. This allows provinces and territories to respond more effectively to outbreaks and to mitigate transmission in hot zones where there is pressure on health care systems.
    I will speak now about testing and screening, work in which the microbiology lab has been critical.
     Testing and screening, along with public health measures and vaccination, are key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. As of May 18, nearly 27 million rapid tests have been shipped to provinces and territories. When combined with the federal allocation, more than 41 million rapid tests have been distributed across the country. Provinces and territories determine how to use the test based on the specific needs of their respective jurisdictions, informed by guidance from a variety of sources, including the federal government. The Government of Canada is encouraging jurisdictions to use rapid tests as part of their screening practices and as an additional layer of protection to help slow the spread of the virus.
    The Government of Ontario recently launched a new online COVID-19 rapid testing program, the provincial antigen screening program, so essential businesses could access free rapid testing kits. This supports the province's rapid testing initiative for small and medium-sized enterprises through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, a system and testing that has been directly influenced by the microbiology lab. The provincial antigen screening program provides free rapid antigen tests to screen for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in Ontario workplaces. Alberta will also offer free rapid antigen testing to businesses and not-for-profit organizations through chambers of commerce.
     Rapid testing can help detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and help limit the spread by isolating these individuals early.
    It is important for those administering rapid tests to be adequately trained. The Government of Canada has provided provinces and territories with guidance on the use of these tests through the federal testing and screening expert advisory panel; the industry advisory round table on COVID-19 testing, screening, tracing and data management; and the Public Health Agency of Canada's guidance on the use of antigen tests.

  (1100)  

    The Government of Canada will continue to work closely with provinces and territories to ensure they have the tools they need to respond to the pandemic, including procuring these point-of-care PCR tests and rapid tests. In addition to the public health measures already in place, this is another layer of protection to keep workers safe.
    Our response to this pandemic continues to be driven by science. Our National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is known around the world for its scientific excellence. The work done at this world-class laboratory includes surveillance for infectious diseases, emergency outbreak preparedness and response, training, and research and development. It helps keep Canadians safe each and every day.
    Canada is home to some of the most skilled and brightest researchers in the world, and they have been working hard to support domestic and international efforts to fight this virus. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and it requires a global solution. The participation of researchers around the world to combat COVID-19 is truly a new model for global collaboration. We are proud of that as one of the global leaders in infectious disease research.
    The National Microbiology Laboratory has been working tirelessly with Canadian and international partners on this front. Every day we are adding to our knowledge of COVID-19, keeping pace with the rapid growth of new scientific evidence as it emerges. In order to continue to slow and eventually stop the spread of infection, we need to continue to mobilize Canada's research and scientific communities to advance research and technology development.
    That is why, in March 2020, the Government of Canada announced a $1 billion government-wide COVID-19 response fund, which includes $275 million to enhance our capacity to test antivirals, develop vaccines and support clinical trials. It is why what I was speaking about earlier in my speech is so critical to this.
    Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research rapid research response program, the Government of Canada has invested a total of $54.2 million to support 99 research teams from across Canada. These teams are focusing on developing and implementing measures to rapidly detect, manage and reduce transmission of COVID-19. This includes vaccine research and the development of strategies to combat stigma, misinformation and fear.
    Canada's public health advice will continue to be based on trusted, expert science provided by our National Microbiology Laboratory scientists and our international partners.
    Let me also answer some questions regarding former employees of the National Microbiology Laboratory. The two scientists in question are no longer employed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. We cannot disclose additional information for privacy and confidentiality reasons. However, I can say that the National Microbiology Laboratory will continue to play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
     We are committed to supporting open, collaborative research while also protecting our research, our national security and our economic interests. Outside interference poses real threats to Canadian research security. This is a threat we have always taken seriously. In 2020, public safety officials met with more than 34 universities to help ensure the safety and security of their research, and CSIS has engaged more than 225 different organizations, including universities, to ensure they are aware of foreign threats.
    In March, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry requested the development of specific guidelines that incorporate national security into the evaluation of any research partnerships. As we move forward in our fight against COVID-19, we continue to ensure that we welcome the international scientific community. At the same time, we will work with our security agencies to help keep Canadians safe.
     To date, more than 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada. Relatively few cases of the virus have been reported among people who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and fewer still among those who have received two doses. We must remember that vaccines take time to work, including up to 14 days after the first dose, to provide good protection, and up to seven days after the second dose to provide strong protection.

  (1105)  

    Based on data provided by nine provinces and territories up to May 25, people with infections occurring 14 days or more after their first dose accounted for 0.15% of people who had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Compared with unvaccinated cases in these jurisdictions, these individuals were more likely to report no symptoms and less likely to experience severe illness requiring hospitalization. This aligns well with vaccine effectiveness studies showing strong protection against severe illness.
    The good news is that nationally, we expect the third wave to continue to decline as long as we maintain current measures and do not increase in-person contact rates around the community. The downward trends show that measures put in place across the country are working to suppress the third wave as vaccination continues. Things have taken a great turn for the better, but we always need to stay the course.

  (1110)  

    Madam Speaker, I have three very quick questions for the member. I did not hear from her whether she supports or opposes the motion in front of us. Does she support or oppose the motion?
    My second question is this: Does she believe the lab in Winnipeg should continue its collaboration with scientists from China's military?
    Finally, does she believe the government should continue to grant access to the lab for scientists from China's military?
    Madam Speaker, as someone who actually has security clearance and who has gone through that process, and as somebody who has attended secure meetings, I understand that if the member opposite is genuinely concerned about national security, he would not ask for documents that could be of national security interest in an unsecured situation.
    I have trust in our national security and intelligence community to do the work of ensuring that the microbiology lab is secure. I question the hon. member and the Conservatives with this motion. Either they truly do not understand national security or they simply do not care.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I must admit that I had to pay very close attention to the parliamentary secretary's speech to ensure that she understood what today's motion is about, since her comments seemed to be all over the place.
    I find it hard to understand this cavalier attitude towards the lack of transparency shown by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is actually a very serious issue. It is as though this is no big deal and there is nothing there.
    Could our colleague reassure us that the government does, in fact, take this very seriously? What happened at the lab in Winnipeg is very worrisome. I am very concerned about the government's apparent indifference to this issue, and I worry about what this means for the future.
    I look forward to hearing the parliamentary secretary's response.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, let me start by apologizing to the member for his having to pay attention to my speech for an extended period of time. However, given the fact that we are in a global pandemic, I think discussing the pandemic and rates of vaccination are things that Canadians deeply care about.
    In terms of the member's question, as has been said many times, the microbiology lab is a secure facility. Anyone working there or visiting must obtain the proper security clearances. The two employees in question are no longer employees with the Public Health Agency of Canada. We take national security and the protection of Canadians extremely seriously, and the suggestion otherwise is simply not accurate.
    Madam Speaker, I listened while the member used her time to talk about the pandemic, viruses and vaccinations, in particular, but I did not hear her address the question of the special committee carrying out its duty and due diligence, and looking at the goings-on at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
    Does the member believe that this committee has the obligation and the power to require these papers to carry out its duty under the Constitution and under the rulings of previous speakers of the House?
    Madam Speaker, I believe committees have the ability to request and acquire these documents. That is precisely what was provided to the committee; however, the documents were redacted for privacy and national security reasons.
    If the member opposite, the NDP and the Bloc want to prop up the Conservatives by having an unsecured meeting to address confidential documents, again, I ask whether the hon. member understands the difference between national security, secure documents and secure meetings and meetings that are in camera in the House of Commons.
    It is an important distinction that members need to take very seriously when thinking about this motion.

  (1115)  

    Madam Speaker, I certainly listened to the member's speech and I think that she was very much on point when trying to lay the groundwork for what this microbiology lab actually does. It provides context for the debate we are having today. A lot of Canadians are probably unaware that this lab even exists, let alone of the incredible work it has done throughout the pandemic.
    Could the parliamentary secretary please provide some more information with respect to what the lab does, how it operates, what it is responsible for and perhaps some of its accomplishments?
    Madam Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands is absolutely correct. Many Canadians probably do not know about the existence of this lab. The fact remains that the lab has been operating and studying infectious diseases for a long time. When the pandemic broke out, it had some of the top scientists and experts who had already been working on infectious diseases in this country.
     I spoke often about the role of testing. The microbiology lab has been crucial in the development and understanding of testing to ensure that we help stop the spread and save lives.
    When it comes to our scientists and our research, this lab has allowed Canada to be at the forefront of fighting this incredibly dangerous disease. I thank the scientists and researchers for their work.
    Madam Speaker, I am not sure what that speech was. For a second I thought our parliamentary system had turned into the CCTV broadcast out of mainland China, where the member was going through a job application as a spokesperson.
    My question for the member is simple. Is it her position that the Government of Canada is no more obliged to provide documents to Parliament than the Chinese government is to provide documents to the people in China? Is there no right of accountability in Canada during a pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the preamble to the last question, the member seemed to suggest that the parliamentary secretary was working for the Chinese government or applying for a job for the Chinese government—
    I would say that is a point of debate and not a point of order.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for rising on that. I was actually going to point out how incredibly offended I am that the member opposite questioned my allegiance to this country. I would ask that the member apologize.
    As I stated, I have served on the National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. The suggestion that my allegiance to Canada is in any way in question is incredibly offensive, and again it shows me the complete lack of knowledge that the Conservatives have when it comes to the serious threat of China to this country.
    The member's offensive comments are a disgrace to this country and to parliamentarians. I strongly recommend that he apologize, because he has absolutely no idea what he speaks of and it is deeply offensive that he would question my allegiance to my country in this fashion. He may disagree with the politics, but he is outrageous and offensive. I deeply urge him to apologize for those baseless comments.

Points of Order

Alleged Use of Unparliamentary Language  

[Points of Order]
    Madam Speaker, our procedural rules specifically state that one cannot impute motive upon another member of this House.
    I encourage you to review your previous ruling and ask the member to apologize for the extremely offensive comment he made toward one of our colleagues in this House.

  (1120)  

    I appreciate the point of order and the comments made in response to the question put to the parliamentary secretary.
    I will review the previous comments made and will come back to the House with my feedback and recommendation. I also remind all members to ensure that they are respectful toward each member of the House and ensure there is no language being used that is derogatory toward members.

[Translation]

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Montarville.

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Documents Related to the Transfer of Ebola and Henipah Viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology  

[Business of Supply]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Madam Speaker, today's debate is a very important one. Some might argue that this is simply a partisan attempt to embarrass the government. However, aside from the very important national security issues, what is at issue today is the pre-eminence of Parliament, the fact that it takes precedence over any laws a government might invoke to avoid being held accountable to parliamentarians. I will come back to this point later.
    My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot already said that the Bloc Québécois would vote in favour of this motion, moved by my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills. We will vote for this motion because it is nearly identical to a motion that was unanimously passed by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. I said "unanimously", because the Liberal members supported it. This motion was adopted in response to the Public Health Agency of Canada's intransigent, stubborn and bullheaded refusal to provide the documents parliamentarians were requesting. Even our Liberal colleagues were frustrated by the tight-lipped, stubborn attitude of PHAC representatives, so much so that they voted in favour of this motion, which was the subject of a recent report from the special committee.
    I will touch briefly on this point, but I wonder why the Conservatives are using an opposition day to present a motion that is virtually identical to a motion that the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations reported on to the House and that could have been called for debate before being adopted.
    Why are the Conservatives moving this motion this morning? The Liberal Party’s claim that the Conservatives are simply trying to embarrass the government may have some truth to it. However, beyond this strictly partisan aspect, which, I think, deserves to be mentioned, there is the fundamental issue I raised earlier: Parliament’s pre-eminence, the fact that it takes precedence over any laws the government might invoke to avoid complying with a request from a parliamentary committee.
    Let us start at the beginning. We created the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations to look into the deterioration of relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China and to consider ways of re-establishing contact between the two countries. In the past, our relations have always been positive, cordial and characterized by a spirit of collaboration.
    Canada was one of the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China when it was created and to establish trade and diplomatic relations with the country. Consider the writings of Quebec physician Norman Bethune, who took part in the legendary Long March of the Communist Party of China. Consider as well the aid provided by Canada, in the form of wheat and other grain, when the Chinese were literally starving to death. I think that this is a solid foundation for key, cordial relations between the two countries, but it is obvious that these relations have deteriorated dramatically in recent months.

  (1125)  

    We therefore set up this committee to look into the deterioration of relations, the possible causes and potential solutions.
    Given that this is a minority government and that an election can be called at any time, we chose to partition our study into sections to safeguard our work.
    Accordingly, we produce periodic progress reports on what we have done so far. For example, we issued a report on the situation in Hong Kong, which I believe deserves our careful attention. At that point in our work we were looking into the security issue.
    In this part of the study pertaining to security, we were looking at everything from the Chinese government’s foreign influence operations in Canada to interference or, at the very least, possible espionage activities by Chinese companies that report to the Government of the People's Republic of China. Obviously, the Canada-China relationship concerning microbiology research was also discussed.
    I must say that, for our part, this portion of our investigation on security started out rather candidly. Of course, we wanted to look into the CanSino case, for example, the collaboration between Canadian and Chinese institutions to develop a vaccine. Curiously, the plug was pulled on this collaboration, and now China is using vaccine diplomacy to increase its influence in the world by generously offering its vaccine to developing countries that desperately need it, but also making sure to create a state-client relationship between the People's Republic of China and these countries.
    When the Public Health Agency of Canada appeared on March 22, we met with its president, Iain Stewart, as well as with Guillaume Poliquin, who heads the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. We were surprised when Mr. Stewart refused to answer entirely legitimate questions. The fact remains that, on March 31, 2019, two researchers at the Winnipeg laboratory, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and Dr. Keding Cheng, took a commercial Air Canada flight carrying two living viruses, Ebola and Henipah, in their luggage to deliver them to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, now infamous due to the rumours and allegations that continue to circulate to the effect that the coronavirus may have escaped from the facility.
    Obviously, we were concerned by the fact that they were able to carry two extremely dangerous viruses to a Chinese laboratory on a commercial flight. In the same March 22 committee meeting, Mr. Stewart explained that everything was done according to standards. I do not know what standards apply when carrying deadly viruses on a regular commercial flight. In any event, we were assured that this was the case, and we have no reason to believe that this approach was based on a scientific, evidence-based assessment.
    I would like to point out that Dr. Qiu received the Governor General's award in 2018 for having helped develop a treatment for Ebola at the Winnipeg laboratory. This award is normally given to Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. This shows how highly Dr. Qiu's work was regarded.

  (1130)  

    On July 5, 2019, however, Dr. Qiu, Dr. Cheng and their students were removed from the Winnipeg laboratory. That is more than a little curious.
    We also learned that, on January 20, 2021, the couple was officially fired, and an explanation has never been given for their removal or their dismissal. Candidly, I asked Mr. Stewart why, if everything was done according to standards in the transfer of the viruses on a commercial Air Canada flight to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the couple had been removed from the Winnipeg laboratory and fired without explanation. Mr. Stewart told us that he could not answer that question.
    We asked him why he could not answer and told him that he was required to. It became apparent that Mr. Stewart had certain privacy concerns. Of course, these concerns may be legitimate. They may have to do with national security or an ongoing criminal investigation. All of these concerns may be entirely legitimate.
    We gave Mr. Stewart the opportunity to send the committee information confidentially, so that it could better understand what was going on without any potentially harmful information in terms of the protection of personal information, national security or a criminal investigation reaching the public.
    To our surprise, we received a letter from Mr. Stewart stating simply that he could not submit any documents because of the Privacy Act. Despite the fact that we offered him the opportunity to provide the information confidentially, he told us that he could not comply or did not want to comply with this request from the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
    We insisted and, a few days later, on April 20, we received a first batch of heavily redacted documents. Obviously, we were unhappy that the agency continues to refuse to provide the documents. We met with the House's Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, who told us that the committee was within its rights. We therefore recalled Mr. Stewart, who appeared with Mr. Poliquin on May 10.
    We were once again told that it was impossible to provide the committee with the information requested, because of the provisions of the Privacy Act, as if the parliamentary committee were just another litigant requesting information from the agency. This parliamentary committee is not just another litigant requesting information in the House.

  (1135)  

    I want to share an opinion that was shared with us by the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons. It states, and I quote:
...the committee's powers to send for papers and records comes from section 18 of the Constitution. It comes from parliamentary privilege and gives the power to send for persons and papers. It is at a higher level than ordinary statutes, and Speaker Milliken in his ruling and the Supreme Court of Canada have recognized the primacy of Constitutional provisions, and in particular parliamentary privilege....
     It's the same authority that is pointed to, and that authority from Speaker Milliken makes it very clear, as does the authority in other Parliaments, that the constitutional authority of committees and of the House supersedes and is not limited by ordinary statutes like the Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act....Speaker Milliken was explicit on the point that the statutes do not allow the government to unilaterally determine that something would be confidential.
    At the May 10 meeting, our colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills also referred to provisions of the Privacy Act that clearly state that the act does not apply to parliamentary committees, it applies only to individuals subject to the law who request information. After repeated refusals by authorities at the Public Health Agency of Canada, the committee adopted a motion that is very similar to the one moved today by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    At first, our questions for PHAC were straightforward, but PHAC's stubborn, systematic refusal to provide the information requested by the special committee raised suspicions. Moreover, we have since learned of some disturbing information.
    Last May, The Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had recommended that two researchers, Dr. Qiu and her husband, Dr. Cheng, have their access to the Winnipeg laboratory revoked for national security reasons. Why? CSIS also had concerns, particularly about the transfer of intellectual property, with regard to information that the couple and their students had sent to China.
    That same month, The Globe and Mail reported that at least seven scientists at the Winnipeg laboratory were collaborating with the Chinese army, publishing several articles jointly. One researcher, Professor Feihu Yan, had been able to work at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg despite working directly for the People's Liberation Army of China.
    From what we have been able to glean, Canadian authorities have been rather nonchalant about national security. When Parliament tried to get to the bottom of this apparent lack of rigour, the government invoked completely specious reasons in a bid to escape its obligation to answer to Parliament.
    It was disturbing enough that the Public Health Agency of Canada was refusing to answer questions from members of Parliament. It was even more disturbing to hear the Prime Minister and some of his ministers doing exactly the same thing during oral question period, when they responded to members' questions by saying that the two people had been fired and that they could unfortunately not provide any more information. By doing this, the Prime Minister and the ministers in question may also have been breaching the privileges of the House.
    Getting back to what I was saying at the beginning of my speech, the issue here, beyond the partisan bickering, is Parliament's supremacy over ordinary Canadian laws by virtue of the parliamentary privilege enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, which the government is using as an excuse to refuse to provide parliamentarians with the information they are requesting. We thought only PHAC was doing this, but we now have proof that it is the entire government. Under the circumstances, we have no choice but to support our colleague's motion.

  (1140)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. I would like to ask him a question.
    Does he think that, when the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations adopted the two motions and in the House's debate on this motion, everyone took care to make decisions that protected national security and the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation?
    Madam Speaker, we clearly showed that members of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations wanted to act responsibly.
    When we realized that there were legitimate national security, privacy and criminal investigation concerns, we gave the Public Health Agency of Canada the opportunity to provide the information confidentially. Even so, the agency refused.
    We had no choice but to resort to extreme measures and put the matter before the House. That is what we are doing today in order to shed light on the matter and make the information available to parliamentarians.
    To be clear, we are not going to get our hands on the information and then release it all, jeopardizing privacy, national security and police investigations. It will go to the law clerk, and we will assess whether some of the information can be made public. I can assure the House that we will not act irresponsibly.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I also thank him for his shout-out to Dr. Bethune. It is not every day that he gets a mention in the Parliament of Canada.
    The government lacks transparency and refuses to disclose certain documents because it has something to hide. I would like to hear a little bit more from my colleague about that.
    What does he think the government is trying to hide from us?
    Madam Speaker, I usually do not respond to questions that are purely hypothetical. Sadly, this one is just that, in every respect.
    I have no idea what the government is trying to hide, but it seems to have been rather nonchalant about national security, and when we try to get to the bottom of what might have happened, it refuses to give us information by invoking utterly specious arguments that just do not hold water legally.
    This government boasted about standing up for the rights of parliamentarians when Stephen Harper's government refused to provide information pertaining to Afghan detainees. At the time, Speaker Milliken made an unequivocal ruling. We are asking the government to comply with that ruling. That is all.

  (1145)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the power of Parliament to send for papers is absolute. That is a very well-established privilege and power that we have in this place.
    While the Liberals may rightly have concerns about the sensitive nature of the documents, there are no arguments that can be made against Parliament's right to send for these papers and to organize a way in which it views them. That cannot be argued against.
    However, my question to my hon. colleague concerns scientific collaboration. Does he have any ideas on how a country like Canada, while protecting very sensitive technology and information, could find secure ways to collaborate internationally while also looking after our national security interests? Does he have any thoughts on that particular subject?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.
    Rather than trying to protect itself and covering up the truth, the government should be using these events as an opportunity to strengthen the safeguards that must be in place any time countries collaborate on such sensitive issues as microbiology and virology research.
    We know very well that the components of biological warfare are strictly forbidden on the international scene, but we also know that there are a number of delinquent rogue states. We therefore need to tighten security measures to ensure that the results of research done in Canada do not fall into the wrong hands.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very eloquent speech. He is as relevant as ever, and I just hope to speak as well as him in the House of Commons one day, when I become a “grown-up”.
    In his speech earlier, my colleague said that Liberal members were quite co-operative in committee on the subject of requesting information from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    However, the speeches we have heard from the Liberal members so far this morning suggest a certain closed-mindedness. Right before my colleague's speech, a Liberal member spoke for 10 minutes about something else entirely, namely the progress of vaccination in Canada. She did not appear to have any interest in debating the motion before the House today. There seems to be a double standard.
    Can my colleague think of an explanation for this?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his complimentary comments.
    His question is very interesting. It is true that, at first, the Liberals on the committee appeared to be protecting the Public Health Agency of Canada. I denounced their behaviour, asking what the government members were trying to hide from members of Parliament. This provoked anger on the part of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    Afterwards, faced with the obstinacy and stubbornness of the people from the agency, even the Liberal members had no choice but to acknowledge that the agency had violated parliamentary privilege. They therefore joined us in adopting this motion, which is almost identical to the one presented here today.
    Of course, I would expect the Liberals to be consistent and to vote in favour of today's motion, as they did in committee. However, it appears that the Prime Minister and some of his ministers have adopted a different position, which may cause our colleagues to adopt a different position as well. If that is the case, I will be very disappointed.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure working with this member at the foreign affairs committee and the Canada-China committee. We do not always agree, but, more and more, we find ourselves in alignment.
    There is an important principle at stake here, which is the supremacy of Parliament in a parliamentary democracy and, therefore, the right of Parliament to send for the documents that it needs in order to scrutinize the actions of the executive. In a case like this, where it seems like something very serious has gone wrong, it is important for Parliament to be able to exercise that power in a responsible way.
     The member rightly pointed out that there has been some flip-flopping among the Liberals at committee. They initially voted against the motion, but, they said, only because it did not give enough time. Then the second motion that sent for documents was actually a motion proposed by a Liberal member and supported by Liberal MPs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the justice department gets it wrong in its legal advice all the time. Then we have the Minister of Foreign Affairs repudiating the principle of document disclosure.
    Can the member comment on how the Liberals have been back and forth on this issue of the right of Parliament, and how we need to stand together for this principle of parliamentary supremacy in our democracy?

  (1150)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, this is a test of the Liberals' principles today. I remember that they made of point of demanding that Stephen Harper's government comply with parliamentary privilege in the Afghan detainee matter. We will see if the principles the Liberals claimed to espouse at the time still stand when they are in power.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to join in this debate today. I think it is an extremely important debate, having to do, principally, with the powers of the members of Parliament to do their duty to hold the government to account and to be, as has been determined, the ultimate arbiter of democracy in this country, once having been elected. I say this after listening to some very fulsome speeches, particularly by senior, experienced members of Parliament like the member for Wellington—Halton Hills and the member for Montarville discussing these important matters.
    I share with the member for Montarville a question, I suppose, as to why we are doing this as an opposition day motion, as there was not an order of reference to the House from the parliamentary committee, the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. I think it could have been dealt with that way. Perhaps it has something to do with why the government seems to have politicized this, as opposed to treating it as a serious motion with respect to the duties of parliamentarians, which is how I wish to treat it. I think this is something that should be treated that way by the House.
    After all, we are dealing with the result of a unanimous decision of the Canada-China committee, after much deliberation, consideration and various amendments to the motion to ensure that it would be unanimous. We were unanimously of the view that the committee needed and was entitled to the documents in their unredacted form, so that we could carry out the committee's duty of due diligence with respect to whether the government, through PHAC, was withholding documents that we needed in order to do our job.
    We have to put it into the context of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. The committee was formed for a very good reason, given the circumstances we were facing in the fall of 2019 with the situation with China. A number of things had come up that were of great concern, particularly the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as relationships of concern and matters that had been raised. For example, there were concerns about the co-operation between the People's Liberation Army and the Canadian Armed Forces for a training exercise, which was subsequently cancelled due to security concerns being raised by some of our allies.
    We heard testimony at the Canada-China committee regarding foreign influence within Canada and intimidation of Canadians, Chinese students and other Chinese nationals in Canada, which raised concerns. We had concerns about whether this had been dealt with properly by government agencies, police forces and others. We had concerns regarding the influence of China, through its agencies and other efforts, on research and intellectual property capture at our universities and other institutions.
    This matter came up with respect to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The committee was concerned about the level of collaboration with Chinese researchers, in particular with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, and then the indications of co-operation with researchers who were associated with the People's Liberation Army, as well, and its other lab in China, which is engaged in research with a military point of view.
    These concerns were serious. They were legitimate. They were relevant to the relationship between Canada and China, what measures Canada was taking to protect itself and whether it was doing a proper job doing so. These are matters of great concern, and the committee, under its obligation to carry out this task assigned to it by Parliament, was doing this work. As it happened, we all know what the Public Health Agency of Canada decided when we asked for documentation behind the notorious incident, in the sense of being well known and concerning, of the two individuals, researchers, being escorted out of the laboratory in Winnipeg and the subsequent termination of their services by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

  (1155)  

    This was something we were looking into in good faith to attempt to discover the factual basis and to see whether the concerns that were raised were dealt with appropriately and whether there were other concerns Canada might have with respect to this matter that were not being properly looked after. In fact, as was pointed out by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, our job, in part, is to ensure that if there is something wrong, and there clearly was something wrong, this kind of activity would not occur again.
    This is a normal carrying out of the function of Parliament that is supported by law, by our Constitution and by our rules of procedure. As has been pointed out, it is very well established, but it was not very well established for a long time. It was established by Parliament in the classic and seminal ruling of Speaker Peter Milliken in April 2010, on a case involving the necessity of a parliamentary committee, another special committee, seeking documentation in support of an inquiry into Canada's activities in Afghanistan in relation to its obligations toward prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.
    This was of a much higher level of concern and evaluation, and the refusal of the government of the day to make those documents available to the special committee on Afghanistan ultimately resulted in orders of the House and subsequent activities, which I will not go into in detail. However, the importance of the ruling of Speaker Milliken was that, under the Constitution, particularly section 18 of the Constitution, under the Parliament of Canada Act and under the rules and procedures of our House, this was something that very clearly needed to be delineated and was delineated by the Speaker.
    This information, of course, was available to our committee and the rulings of our committee. When we made the inquiries that have been outlined by the member for Montarville and the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, we did not receive the documents, and the reasons we were given had to do with statutes such as the Privacy Act and some reference to the context of national security. Well, that does not necessarily give rise to concerns about national security, but we were deprived of these documents.
    In the ordinary course of the law, the decisions that were made by the Public Health Agency in refusing to make these documents available were, in fact, already determined by parliamentary procedure and by our own procedural rules: that the Privacy Act does not, in fact, relate to a reason for members of Parliament not having access to these documents.
    In its report “Access to Information Requests and Parliamentary Privilege”, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs reported, back in 1991, as early as then, that “[s]ince parliamentary privileges form part of the Constitution, laws must be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with them, and where there is a conflict between privileges and statutory provisions, the statutory provisions are 'of no force and effect'”. Therefore, assertions by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and by Mr. Stewart on its behalf, that it could not make documents available to members of Parliament on a parliamentary committee have already, in fact, been overruled, ruled to be of no force or effect.
    The specific ruling set out in our Constitution Act, 1982, in section 52, says, “The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of that inconsistency, of no force or effect”. What was being presented to our committee by the Public Health Agency of Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada, was that it was bound by the Privacy Act not to make available documents to us, as members of Parliament, yet our own Constitution clearly says that such laws are of no force or effect.

  (1200)  

    That is what we were faced with as a committee, which is why it is not a surprise that the members of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, including, as has been pointed out by me, experienced members such as the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, the member for Montarville and of course the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was on the committee as well, another senior member of Parliament, and the other members of Parliament unanimously supported a motion to not accept the rationale and reasons given by the Public Health Agency of Canada to refuse to make available documents in a non-redacted form.
    We do not often see such definitive statements about legal matters, but it is pretty clear that the ruling of Speaker Milliken, a very seminal ruling that probably stands ahead of all others in the annals of parliamentary democracies under the Westminster model, is important. In the quotations provided to us in the rulings given by Speaker Milliken and other authorities, there are no limits on the powers of committees to require the production of papers by private bodies or individuals, provided the papers are relevant to the work of the committee as defined by reference. When select committees ordered papers to be produced by national industry, private solicitors all provided and produced papers related to a client. Statutory regulators have been ordered to produce papers whose release was otherwise subject to a statutory restriction.
    It is clear that Parliament is not bound by this legislation and, as has been ruled, there are no limits on the powers of Parliament to get access to documents. Precautions need to be taken, and I think our committee, in making its motion, and the motion before us today, provide for some provision to ensure that documents will not be made public unless the committee, having had the opportunity to review the documents, is satisfied that they can be made public.
    It is clear the motion before the House today indicates that the committee, although it may have the power to make documents public, does not have to do so in order to make recommendations or findings. That would sufficiently protect any national security issue of revealing details of an ongoing investigation. In lieu of making any information public, the committee may still rely on it for the purpose of making findings and recommendations in any subsequent report to the House. I think that is there for a purpose. It is there to ensure the committee can carry out its due diligence under its duty to do so and also hold government to account, and that if this measure needs to be brought to the attention of the House, it can do so without making any information public that should not be made public.
     I think we have made it very clear that, under the committee's jurisdiction and under the powers that are granted to it by the constitution, our rulings of Speaker Milliken and the privileges of Parliament, this is within our purview as members of Parliament to carry out this function.
    There are some who may not agree with that. I think we have seen arguments made in the past about that, but it is up to the House itself or members of the House to determine the appropriate way to safeguard the national interests in these questions. We have a situation where the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations has the means to do that through the experience of senior members of this House, as well as the advice of the parliamentary law clerk, who is Parliament's lawyer.

  (1205)  

    The Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel is giving legal advice to members of Parliament. Members of Parliament in this circumstance, represented by four parties in the House that have party status, are all present and have made a unanimous motion calling for these papers to be available to them in fulfilment of their parliamentary duty. It seems to me this is a matter of constitutional and parliamentary concern, as well as an important matter in dealing with Canada's relationship with China. The committee ought to be able to carry out its work and do so in a proper manner.
    I regret that certain members of the Liberal Party who have spoken, in particular the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, have sought to turn it into a partisan issue. That is regrettable. We have to recognize there are serious moments in this House when we have to look at the privileges of members of Parliament, take them seriously and put aside partisan differences in the pursuit of ensuring that we have a Parliament that can operate under the rules based on precedents and recognize that in our parliamentary system, Parliament is supreme. It is Parliament that has the ultimate power and control over whether a government is in office or not. This is not a motion of confidence obviously, but it is a question of whether the House ought to support the motion of a committee asking for documents to be made available to it in the ordinary course of conducting its business.
     It is clearly a matter properly before the committee. It is one that is of great importance and important enough for a unanimous decision of the committee to pursue this question by having access to the proper documentation that is necessary for it to conduct its study.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the arguments my hon. colleague has made.
    The special committee was responsible for the two motions that it adopted ordering the government to produce these documents. Both orders ensured that no information injurious to national security would be made public and no details concerning an ongoing criminal investigation would be made public. So too does the motion in front of the House today in clause (d).
    The difference between the motion in front of us today and the opposition supply day motion introduced by Mr. Dosanjh in December of 2009 and adopted by the House is that the 2009 motion made no provision to prevent the release of information that would be injurious to national security. I will quote from the 2009 motion for the benefit of the House and the member. It states, “accordingly the House hereby orders that these documents be produced in their original and uncensored form forthwith.” In other words, the documents in the 2009 motion would be made public immediately and without redaction, and that obviously raised concerns of the government of the day about national security and the protection of Canadian troops in the field.
    I am wondering if my hon. colleague from St. John's East could comment on that.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills, who is also my colleague on the Canada-China committee, does make a distinction.
    At that time, there was a clear opportunity, because of the wording of that motion, for the historic ruling of Speaker Milliken to be made after considerable debate and deliberation. That motion was in December, as the member noted, and the decision of Speaker Milliken was made on April 27 of the next year after a number of manoeuvres, motions and actions, as well as considerable debate on the issue, which resulted in a ruling that did in fact say that the House had full power to have these documents made available. He offered an opportunity for the parties to consider the way in which those documents—
    We will have to move on to the next question.
    The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, when the member for St. John's East referenced that he hoped there would not be too much partisan discussion in today's debate, I am sure he was referring to when the member for New Brunswick Southwest questioned the allegiance my colleague, the parliamentary secretary from Pickering, has to her country when he suggested that perhaps she was applying for a job with the Chinese government. I am sure that is the partisan political talk he was referencing when he said he was hoping that would not occur today.
    The documents requested by the committee were provided to the committee by the health department, and those were redacted by the health department government officials, not the minister's office. For people who do not know, there is a separation between the department, where the staff who are there forever, versus the ministerial staff. I am curious why the information that was provided was not seen to be enough by the committee that required to go a step further.
    Mr. Speaker, I did not actually hear the intervention to which he objects. If his reporting is correct, I would certainly agree with him that is probably unparliamentary and certainly uncalled for in this House and in this debate.
    As to the question of whether it is the minister's office or bureaucrats we are talking about, I do not think it matters terribly. It was determined by the committee that the advice given to the Public Health Agency was not in keeping with the rules and parliamentary procedure and that the committee was entitled and in fact it was within its power to request them and it needed them for its work.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for stating the importance of making the documents available to the special committee. As he himself said, it must be done with the necessary caution and disclosure. However, I am shocked that we had to submit a motion in the House to force the agency to make the documents available when they are so important to the committee's work.
    I do not need to know the justification for this refusal to disclose information so important that a motion had to be tabled and debated in the House, because I understand, but I would like an explanation.
    Can my colleague answer me?

  (1215)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I suspect the reason it has come to this is because the government itself was well aware of this debate going on in our committee, and instead of the government giving instructions to the Public Health Agency to co-operate on the basis of precedence, the government decided to stand by and let the matter fall the way it does. Why it has to come to an opposition day motion is a question perhaps the Conservatives can better answer. There are various other ways of doing it; I think they just decided this was most expedient.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from St. John's East.
    I find today's debate very interesting. I would like to hear more from my colleague about transparency and openness and about the possibility of getting access to the documents. The Liberals have often spoken about an open and transparent government, yet we are obliged to force them to hand over documents they wish to keep secret.
    Can my colleague tell me how it affects our ability to act as members of Parliament if the government does not provide us with all the information?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, for starters, it is very unfortunate. We are talking about a constitutional proposition here. In fact, I am a little surprised by the resistance we are seeing today, especially given that the members of the committee were unanimous in their support for this motion and action, led by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    It is a little surprising, and I do not know why they are resisting the way they are. It should be a matter of course. Knowing that the protections were there, the concern of the committee was to ensure there would be no reason to be concerned about national security before releasing any documents.
    Mr. Speaker, we all know that this is not the first time we have seen the Liberal government refuse to allow parliamentary oversight on very serious issues of the day. It has refused repeatedly to submit unredacted documents at many committees. I have been on the health and finance committees.
     Does my colleague think this constitutes transparency by any stretch of the imagination?
    Mr. Speaker, there does seem to be a bit of a habit forming circumstance with the government, not wishing to share information and documents that are within the purview of members of Parliament.
    The government talks the talk on a lot of things, but it does not walk the walk. This is another example of that by the Liberal government.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.
    Much is said these days about conspiracy theories. A conspiracy theory is the idea that some covert organization or group of individuals is controlling and directing public events with some nefarious purpose in mind. A conspiracy theory supposes that events are controlled, coordinated and directed, and to a greater extent than appear on the surface. Conspiracy theories presume that someone, somewhere is ultimately coordinating all that takes place.
    In the case of events that have unfolded at the Winnipeg Microbiology Lab and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, there was clearly no conspiracy at play. In fact, what we see is the polar opposite of a conspiracy. What we see from the government is an extreme lack of coordination, awareness and basic competence. It is not that the government is secretly trying to control our lives, but rather it is unable to control anything, including even to exercise enough control over its own operations to secure the safe functioning of vital public institutions.
     Conspiracy theories always vastly overestimate the competence of government, and in this case, it is clear that the stench of incompetence, not conspiracy, should be what is driving our concerns.
    When it comes to what happened in Winnipeg and in Wuhan, there are many things that we still do not know, and that is why the opposition is seeking documents, through our motion today, which will further elucidate the situation. There are many things that we do not know, but here is what we know so far.
    We know that two scientists at the Winnipeg Microbiology Lab sent deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China in March 2019. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has connections with the Chinese military and engages in so-called “gain-of-function experiments”.
    Gain-of-function experiments are experiments whereby efforts are made to make a virus more deadly or more contagious for research purposes. Therefore, we know that deadly viruses were sent from Canada to a lab in China, and that this lab has a mandate to create new and more dangerous viruses and to collaborate with the Chinese military.
    We also know that American officials had already raised serious concerns about security at the Wuhan Institute of Virology before these Canadian viruses were sent. U.S. embassy officials sent cables noting “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” These cables were sent a full year before Canada proceeded with its own deadly virus transfer to Wuhan.
    We know, according to sources who spoke to The Globe and Mail, that the Public Health Agency revoked the security clearance for two scientists at the recommendation of CSIS. CSIS was focused on the people who Dr. Qiu was talking to in China and intellectual property that may have been given to Chinese authorities.
    We know that two scientists involved in this transfer of deadly viruses were expelled a few months after that transfer, along with various Chinese students, for so-called “policy breaches”. They no longer work at the lab, although we still have no idea why.
    We know as well about explicit connections between the Winnipeg lab and Chinese military researchers. For example, Feihu Yan, not one of the two scientists involved in the Ebola and Henipah transfer, came from the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Medical Sciences.
     Military Medical Sciences should have triggered someone. It should have triggered an awareness that maybe something was going on. However, the person involved in the PLA Military Medical Sciences lab worked at the Winnipeg lab and even co-authored a number of papers, in which he directly identifies his simultaneous affiliation with the PLA academy and with the Winnipeg lab. In other words, this Chinese military scientist was hiding in plain sight. It seems that the government did not know or did not care that we had co-operation between a supposedly high-security Canadian lab and the Chinese military.
    To summarize, we know that there was co-operation between Canada's only level-4 laboratory, a lab that is supposed to be so secret that most Canadian researchers cannot access it, and the Chinese military. We know that deadly viruses were transferred from Canada's only level-4 lab to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in spite of serious concerns about security protocols in Wuhan already raised by the Americans. We know that other people with Chinese military affiliations were working at the Winnipeg lab. We also know that the people responsible for the transfer of deadly viruses as well as others were subsequently expelled from the lab following the recommendation of CSIS.

  (1220)  

    We know, in general, that the Government of China runs vast operations that try to influence the direction of discussion at universities and gathers intellectual property that will advance its national interests. The leverage that is exerted on institutions of research through various associations and through threats to withdraw funding for students are well known and well established. Indeed, it is core to how the Government of China operates. It tries to use research partnerships with foreign countries to learn from and absorb technologies for both civilian and military applications, including for the horrific human rights abuses that are taking place in China as we speak.
    We also know that the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan. On the face of it, it would seem like a very odd coincidence for a pandemic involving a novel coronavirus to emerge from the same area where gain-of-function experiments are being done on coronaviruses in a lab with known security deficiencies, yet to have had nothing to do with the lab in question.
    The Chinese government's own more than usually aggressive secrecy around information about the origins of this virus clearly points to a cover-up. By now, many independent experts, including Dr. Fauci, have recognized the lab-leak theory is credible and requires further investigation.
    The Liberals were calling the lab-leak theory a conspiracy theory until at least a couple weeks ago. Now the government has reversed its position and backed President Biden's efforts to get to the bottom of what happened. That reversal is a good step. However, if we are to get to the bottom of what has been happening in Chinese government-controlled and military-affiliated labs, then we also need to get to the bottom of the relationship that existed between military research in China and our own Winnipeg lab.
    To the point about conspiracies, the lab-leak theory is not a conspiracy theory because it does not allege conspiracy. It does not suppose a conspiracy, rather it supposes incompetence. Just as there seems to have been severe bungling of security at the Winnipeg lab in failing to protect our research from espionage and pursuing inadvisable co-operation with the Chinese military, there may have been severe bungling at the Wuhan lab, leading to the leaking out of a novel virus that has now killed over three and a half million people.
    Nobody in the House is suggesting that COVID-19 was manufactured in a Winnipeg lab or that coronaviruses were, at any point, transferred from Canada to China. However, we are questioning the level of co-operation in general that seems to have been taking place between Winnipeg and the various Chinese military-affiliated labs, including the one in Wuhan. We are asking these questions because everything we know so far points to severe naiveté and even wilful blindness on the part of the government when it comes to protecting biosecurity in Canada.
    There is no conspiracy. The truth may be even more alarming, that the politicians who were supposed to be responsible for keeping us healthy and safe acted with supreme incompetence and showed no understanding of the risks associated with opening the door to Chinese military scientists and military institutions.
    There are things that we know and there are things that we do not know, but now what has been done in the darkness must be brought to the light. Canadians must know about the extent to which Canadian research has contributed to dangerous experiments being conducted by the Chinese military. Canadians must know so they can hold their government accountable and insist on putting in place clear protocols that protect our security and our national interests, and that reduce the risk of catastrophic global pandemics in the future.
    In March, the Canada-China committee heard testimony from Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, about this matter. The only useful testimony that we were able to glean from his appearance was that Canadian labs did not appear to conduct due diligence before they transferred deadly viruses to verify how the viruses were going to be used. Otherwise, he completely refused to answer questions.
    Therefore, the committee passed two separate motions ordering PHAC to hand over documents. The committee did not insist on making these documents public. Recognizing the potential national security issues involved, the committee ordered the production of documents for in-camera review, but even then the agency refused to comply.
    I am not surprised if these documents contain embarrassing information for the government, including information about serious security lapses. The fact is that in law, the government must hand over these documents. Parliamentary committees have an unfettered right to send for documents. This right is established in our Constitution and has primacy over statute law, and this right was recognized in the precedent-setting ruling of Speaker Peter Milliken.
    The fact that committees have a right to summon these documents has been specifically supported by all the Liberal members of the Canada-China committee. In fact, the second motion ordering the production of these documents was proposed by the Liberal member for Cumberland—Colchester and passed unanimously by the committee.
    At the time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs declared, respecting his own government's refusal to hand over the documents, “lawyers are not always right. Department of Justice lawyers are particularly...not always right.” He further stated, “I say that to caution the Public Health Agency of Canada to get a second opinion.... You need a second opinion, because I think the justice department is not giving you the best advice.”
    The law is clear. The entire Liberal complement on the committee agrees that the government must disclose these documents. When it comes to document disclosure, it seems that we again have a case of the Liberals thinking that the law does not apply to them. It may be hard for the government to acknowledge the degree to which its incompetence has put both the safety and security of Canadians and Canadian research at risk.

  (1225)  

     Admitting they have a problem and disclosing all of the information is the first step to finding the solution that we need. Let us start the process of getting to the bottom of this. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let us see the documents so that we can fix the problem, hold the government accountable, and more importantly, ensure that these serious security lapses that endanger the health and safety of Canadians never happen again.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for his speech.
    The Liberal government often expresses reservations or seems reluctant to step on the toes of anyone it considers to be a giant. That is what we saw when we asked the government to regulate the web giants. The government tells us that we have to be careful, because they will not agree to be regulated, they will resist or it could spark a trade war.
    I would like my colleague's opinion. Does he think it is possible that, in this case, the government is reluctant to provide the information we are asking for with all the transparency the situation requires, because it is afraid of the reaction of this other giant, which is also one of Canada's trading partners?
    Is it possible that it is because our current government lacks a little courage?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do agree with my colleague that the Liberals have been weak when it comes to responding to the threats posed by the People's Republic of China. Their failure to support our motion on recognizing the Uighur genocide can perhaps be explained by some of this fear.
    However, my hunch on today's motion is that this is really more about them covering up their own failures. There were clearly significant problems with the kind of review and oversight that needed to happen in terms of security. I suspect that if we were to actually see these documents, there would be information in the documents that would be embarrassing for the government and would show that the appropriate precautions were not taken by the government in terms of security.
    In this case, it is actually more about the Liberals trying to avoid being embarrassed and therefore not wanting the issue brought to light than it is about anything else. The fact is that Liberals have said in the past that Parliament has an unfettered right to access documents. Some Liberal members have even agreed to that at committee, so their inconsistency here really needs to be addressed and responded to.
    Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's concerns with regard to the government's reluctance to produce the documents. It is a worrisome trend that we have seen over the past months.
    I wonder if he could comment on one aspect of this that concerns me, which is the rise of anti-Asian racism. At the same time that we push as Parliament to get these documents and to get to the bottom of these questions around the dismissal of the two scientists at the lab in Winnipeg, what steps does the member believe the government should take to combat this worrisome rise of anti-Asian racism here in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, while I very much welcome the questions from my NDP and Bloc colleagues, I was hoping that after my speech I would get a question from a member of the government. That is what usually happens, and hopefully one of them will actually be willing to stand and put their views on the record on this. They seem reluctant to do that.
    To my colleague's very important question, I agree that we need to respond to the threat of rising anti-Asian racism. One of the most critical ways we do that is to establish a clear distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people, as well as Chinese Canadians. The CCP does not speak for the Chinese people and it does not speak for Chinese Canadians.
    In fact, many Chinese Canadians are speaking out about how the Chinese Communist Party is threatening or intimidating them. We heard compelling testimony last night about violence and threats of violence that Canadians of Asian origin are experiencing from the Chinese Communist Party when they start to speak out about important human rights issues.
    We need to always be clear about the distinction between this hostile, foreign political party that does not represent Chinese culture or Chinese identity and certainly does not represent Chinese Canadians. Then there is the very separate issue of affirming and appreciating the great contributions made by Asian Canadians, many of whom are very critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
    Mr. Speaker, the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. have had 54 scientists resign or be fired as a result of non-disclosure of financial ties to foreign governments. Of the 189 scientists investigated to date, 93% had not disclosed that China was the source of their support.
    Seeing how prevalent this situation is in the U.S. makes it all the more imperative that Canadian parliamentarians are fully aware of foreign influences occurring on our soil. Why would the Liberals be hiding these documents, as the security of Canadians is so clearly at risk?

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks an excellent question. I note that in my time for questions and comments, I still have not received a question from a member of the government. Also, the Liberals are all over the place on this. They have said different things at committee than they have said in the House, and it just shows again that this is something on which they do not want to disclose the information. They do not want to talk about it.
    My colleague is absolutely right about the need to do more work in this area. We are seeing other countries have a stronger response to foreign state-backed interference. There are things happening in the United States. A lot of very good things have happened in Australia. Other countries are standing up. We can work together through international networks. I am part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which is a network of legislators working on these issues.
    We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn these best practices. However, the Government of Canada, in particular, has really ignored this issue of foreign state-backed interference, particularly its impact on universities and research institutions. We need to see the government finally start to step up and disclose—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill.
    Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion that deals with a very curious circumstance, to put it mildly, that largely started on March 31, 2019.
    Before I describe what the circumstance is, it is important to give a little context around how this played out. A lot of Canadians may only hear about the National Microbiology Laboratory in passing, for example in government press releases. The National Microbiology Laboratory, or the NML, is actually a really important facility in Canada.
     I grew up in Winnipeg. I started my career at the University of Manitoba, in the faculty of medicine, as well as in the intellectual property management office there. There is a lot of research that happens between the University of Manitoba and the National Microbiology Laboratory. It is very important research to Canada. A lot of the research that happened around the Ebola vaccine happened at this facility.
     It is a very important resource for Canadian research. It also has something called a level 4 containment lab. That means it has the capacity for some of the world's most deadliest viruses to be safely held and researched.
    What we are debating today is the fact that one of the researchers affiliated with the National Microbiology Laboratory, on March 31, 2019, coordinated a shipment of the Ebola and Henipah viruses. These are two very lethal and deadly viruses causing hemorrhagic fevers. That shipment was from the Public Health Agency of Canada to the Wuhan Institute of Virology via Winnipeg to Toronto to Beijing on a commercial Air Canada flight. That is something.
    A few months later, on July 5, 2019, the researcher who did this, as well as her students, were escorted out of the lab by the Public Health Agency of Canada. This is a fairly pressing issue for Parliament to look at. What happened here?
    I want to talk a little about the importance of research and how research happens. I do not want to give the impression that we do not have controls in place. Having worked in research administration in a prior life, which seems more and more distant by the day, there are usually protocols put in place whenever any sort of biological agent or material is transferred. There are actually agreements called material transfer agreements.
    The reason why we need to find out what happened here is to find out whether or not the controls that we have in place in Canada are adequate or if they were followed in this situation. What happened? What was the result of it? Are our controls adequate? When we are talking about something like the Ebola virus, we would think that the public would want to know this information.
     This is definitely something that Parliament should be seized with for the following reasons. Any time biological agents are transferred outside of Canada, or even within Canada, we have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that process is ethical and that it follows ethical standards. I could spend 20 minutes just talking about what that means, in terms of international agreements and Canadian law. We have to make sure, frankly, that that stuff is not going to be weaponized.
     We have to make sure that anybody who is allowed to work in these facilities is vetted in the most profound way and that they are screened to make sure they do not have affiliations with organizations that may not have Canada's best interests at heart. Even on a more commercial basis, we need to make sure that when materials are transferred, the intellectual property, any sort of new products or knowledge that come out of that research, is shared appropriately, according to Canadian and international law.
    We need to find out what happened here. Clearly, something happened. Ebola was transferred by a researcher who was affiliated with the National Microbiology Laboratory, and then they were escorted out of the lab six months later. Then a bunch of other weird stuff sort of happened in that period of time.

  (1240)  

    One would think we should now be debating what happened and whether we need better controls, but what we are debating today is the fact that the Liberal government will not release the documents surrounding this incident, which is very concerning. The motion before us today, which the Liberals are frankly obstructing and which they obstructed at the health committee, compels the government to give parliamentarians information on what happened so we can evaluate whether processes were followed. My suspicion is that they were not. Subsequently, we can ensure that this never happens again.
    The motion before the House would compel the government to put forward documents to the public for scrutiny, not just for Parliament to scrutinize but also the media. It is being blocked every step of the way. We have tried to do this multiple times through the parliamentary committee process. It is not just these documents that the Liberals are blocking. Colleagues on the health committee with me were being filibustered by the government on something as simple as a motion to get the agenda for the health committee.
    There is an article in The Globe and Mail today about the Liberal government wanting to run the clock out on Parliament. By that, I mean it is obstructing everything so that Parliament will rise at the end of June with no answers on this. I know there is a lot of speculation about the Prime Minister potentially unilaterally calling an election in September. If nothing happened and everything is okay, why are these documents being blocked on something as serious as questions around the transfer of the Ebola virus? I have never seen something like this.
    I used to work directly in academic research administration. There are a lot of very serious issues and concerns. Paperwork is put in place in order to hopefully ensure that bad things do not happen. If the system fails, we need to correct that. I have to say that I absolutely support international research collaboration, but it has to be done under a framework of safety and integrity. This motion comes at a time when Canada, frankly, has a very balkanized patchwork of rules and regulations among Canadian universities, our national research facilities, corporate research facilities and international research facilities. I do not think there is any political motivation or partisanship in saying that if a problem happened with this, we need to fix it and Parliament needs to put forward ways to do it.
    There are a lot of questions in the world right now about what happened at the Wuhan lab on a lot of other issues. This issue is with regard to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada and a sample of the Ebola virus. We need to know what happened, where the system failed, whether an appropriate remedy was put in place, and whether we have the potential for this to happen again. I just cannot believe that we have to spend a day of debate to force the Liberals to produce documents that are owned by the public.
    The public, taxpayers, voting citizens and every person in Canada has the right to know what happened so we can make sure that our processes for research are safe and integrous. This is the Ebola virus. To be clear, we should not be transferring any material without rules in place, but this is a level 4 pathogen. This is something that there should be absolute transparency on, and it is shocking to me that we are having to force this debate in the House.
    If there is nothing to hide and everything is fine, why is the Liberal government delaying and obstructing the release of these documents related to the transfer of the Ebola virus to China at every step of the way?
    I hope my Liberal colleagues will vote in favour of this motion. I hope they will talk to their folks in the government and say that we need to pass this motion, and I hope we can spend time in debate afterward talking about how to strengthen this system so that Canada can participate in research internationally without these types of concerns.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I look forward to voting in favour of this motion, because I fundamentally believe in the concept of parliamentary supremacy and in our right as legislators to hold the government to account and to send for papers in aiding us to do that.
    The member talked a bit about the struggles we have in protecting sensitive information in the context of international collaboration, and she referenced the fact that the system we have in Canada is quite decentralized. We have many different moving parts, and sometimes they operate in different jurisdictions.
    I realize her answer will be informed by the production of these papers, but I was wondering if she could expand a bit. Does she have any preliminary ideas on how the federal government might start trying to fix the current decentralized system we have in Canada, to add a little more security while respecting our need to collaborate internationally?
    Mr. Speaker, I wish I had five hours to answer this question. It is such a good question.
    At the core of it, there is value. The taxpayer pays for research in Canada. There is a public good associated with research. We have to start with looking at the public benefit derived from research and how we best protect that and promote it, both from a safety perspective and also from the perspective of intellectual property, commercialization and knowledge translation.
    The fact that we have a balkanized, patchwork system of intellectual property ownership strategies among Canadian universities, and of security screening properties across research institutions as well, is concerning from a safety perspective and also for Canada's ability to get value from its research. This is such an important area of parliamentary discussion. It is one I feel passionately about, and I certainly look forward to collaborating with any member of any political stripe on putting together national policy that makes sense in this area, especially in light of the fact that Canada has to become more self-reliant in producing things like vaccines to be more resilient for future pandemics.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague for Calgary Nose Hill entirely. This should really be a very straightforward matter of getting information. This is a matter of the utmost national security interest, yet last week in response to a question from our deputy leader, instead of trying to act in a co-operative way, the Prime Minister actually accused Conservatives of trying to foment anti-Asian hatred.
    I am wondering if my colleague could comment on the irrationality of this type of response.
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, anti-Asian hate is real, and every Canadian has a responsibility to combat it right now. It is disgusting. I think my colleague who spoke earlier talked about the delineation between the political party that governs China and the people of China and Chinese Canadians. It is something we have to work so hard on.
    The fact the Prime Minister would do this is morally repugnant. I would just say that the Prime Minister is a former blackface practitioner, and he really does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to talking about racism.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie.
    I am pleased to speak today about the importance of research that is so critical to the health and well-being of all Canadians as well as to our country's prosperity. Before I begin, I wish to first thank the residents of Vaughan—Woodbridge and York Region for their response to signing up and receiving the vaccine. As of today, nearly 73% of eligible York Region residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. It has been fantastic work by everyone. I wish to encourage all residents to continue to sign up and to check for continual updates at york.ca and through my communications channels. Getting vaccinated is how we will exit the pandemic. Let us continue to make great progress together.
    On another note, we were all shocked and saddened by the news of the mistreatment of indigenous children who were sent to residential schools and never able to return home to their families. The loss of these children, these innocent souls, is an insufferable loss for their families and the communities they were a part of. This is a tragic and shameful part of Canada's history. The news from the Kamloops Indian Residential School is truly unfathomable.
    Returning to the opposition's motion, support for research has been central to Canada's domestic and international efforts to tackle COVID-19. Since the onset of the global pandemic, the Canadian research community has risen to the challenge at an unprecedented pace. Canada is fortunate to be home to some of the world's best and most innovative minds across academia and industry. They have come together in a concerted and collaborative response to advance urgent and impactful research.
    Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, our government has been working hand in hand with research partners across Canada and around the globe to find solutions to this pandemic and protect Canadians and their loved ones. As members may know, CIHR was the first government-funded agency in the world to launch an open call for COVID-19 research, in February 2020. In response to the emergence of the pandemic, CIHR quickly shifted its focus to the mobilization and acceleration of Canadian research on COVID-19. It did so while committing to a balanced portfolio of research into medical and social countermeasures against the pandemic and supporting the research community through pandemic disruptions. It was a remarkable pan-Canadian effort that continues to contribute invaluable evidence to inform and guide the health response to COVID-19 across the country.
    Our government is proud to support Canadian research that has made, and continues to make, a real difference. It should be no surprise, therefore, that Canada's scientific leadership and expertise are also renowned worldwide. Our academic researchers, leaders in their field, have established strong and successful international networks, most notably with partners in the United States and Europe.
     At the government level, we are also working closely with international global counterparts to optimize the impact of COVID-19 research for all. A global health threat, after all, requires global action, and collaboration has proved eminently valuable to mobilizing a rigorous scientific response since the earliest days of the pandemic. This is why we took rapid steps, in concert with global partners, to leverage existing international research partnerships and to forge impactful new collaborative measures.
     For instance, on January 31, 2020, CIHR signed a joint statement with Wellcome and 65 other signatories to share research data and findings relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak. Shortly thereafter, CIHR played a leadership role in a forum convened by the World Health Organization, which informed the development of a coordinated global research road map.
    Through CIHR, we are also participating in the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness: an international consortium of 29 research-funding organizations worldwide. This network plays an important role in facilitating preparedness and rapid-response research during significant infectious disease outbreaks, including COVID-19. In fact, it is a testament to Canada's scientific leadership that CIHR is currently chair of this international consortium. As pandemic research efforts and outputs accelerated through CIHR, our government signed a joint statement with international partners to make sure that data resulting from clinic trials was disclosed publicly and in a timely manner.

  (1255)  

    Meanwhile, the scientific director for CIHR's Institute of Population and Public Health led an international effort to identify and prioritize research needs for rebuilding in a post-pandemic era while safeguarding progress on the UN sustainable development goals. This vast collaborative effort resulted in the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery, which was released in November 2020.
    As we take sound action to rebuild a stronger, more prosperous and more resilient Canada, our government will further invest to strengthen international co-operation in science. We believe in science. This includes mobilizing for the prevention and response to future pandemics, as well as other emerging global health threats that may loom on the horizon.
    It means leveraging the outputs of our international research collaborations to strengthen Canada's life sciences sector and revitalize our domestic capacity in biomanufacturing and medical innovation. International collaboration has been a critical element to the successful mobilization of both the Canadian and the global research communities long before the pandemic and in response to it.
    Long-standing relationships with international partners forged in response to other health issues such as HIV/AIDS, antimicrobial resistance and dementia made the rapid research response to the pandemic possible.
    Looking forward, we are encouraged by recent developments, such as efforts by the G7 to address gaps and improve the effectiveness of scientific co-operation, including in clinical trials. This includes addressing barriers and making clinical research more effective through better representation of diverse populations around the world, all while continuing to address our domestic needs and context.
    Of paramount importance to the Canadian context is that we remain committed to supporting community-led, meaningful and culturally safe indigenous health research. Through CIHR's rapid response program—
    We have a point of order from the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, although the Standing Orders do provide general latitude for a member who is eventually getting to the point, there are still some limits to the requirements of topicality. I would encourage you to ask the member to remember we are debating a particular motion and ask the member to address the motion being debated in the House today.
    Indeed, relevance is one of those issues relative to the content of speeches in the House. Certainly, the rather precise nature of today's opposition motion may not afford the same degree of latitude members normally have.
    I have been listening to the hon. member. I see his discussion on the merits of research and international co-operation as being, in fact, pertinent to the topic at hand from the standpoint of providing background. I recognize he has three minutes remaining in his time, so if he stays on that track, we are well within the bounds of relevance.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
     Mr. Speaker, the research and co-operation of international research is obviously very important for me, for our government and for the world to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure our national security interests are afforded by and taken care of. We also have to ensure that we have international co-operation between all parties when considering intellectual property and issues of the like.
     I thank the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, for his intervention, but I also wish to address that research and science are of fundamental importance to our government, unlike other governments in the past.
    At a global level, we recognize that shared risks, like pandemics and climate change, require collective action. That is why yesterday the Government of Canada, through CIHR, launched a new framework for action on global health research that will mobilize Canadian research to achieve the greatest impact on health and health equity.
    As we work to strengthen international research, we are also cognizant that safeguarding our investment in research, Canada's intellectual property on our large economy, is crucial. That is why, in collaboration with academia and industry, we are taking measures to identify and minimize security risks, protect data and disseminate best practices to the research community. For instance, in the fall, the government launched an online security portal to help scientists across the country assess their level of risk and protect their work. We are committed to vigilance and, with our partners, we will do what is necessary to protect Canadian innovation.
    Although we are optimistic about the future and what we can accomplish through international co-operation in science, the foremost priority for Canadians remains a swift recovery from the pandemic. This includes addressing the immediate, as well as the potential long-term, impacts of COVID-19. As our knowledge of the pandemic evolves, along with Canadians' needs, the Government of Canada, through CIHR, continues to fund research to address gaps in priority areas of COVID-19 study.
    Earlier this year, as part of the federal variants of concern strategy, CIHR once again mobilized the research community to respond to the COVID-19 variants emerging worldwide. This includes support for research coordination in Canada and with global partners to provide decision-makers with rapid guidance regarding drug therapy, vaccine effectiveness and our public health strategies.
    We look forward to our continued collaboration with our domestic and international partners, including the WHO, on this important issue. We also continue to support the efforts of Canadian researchers, including those working with international colleagues to address other emergent areas of concern, such as post-COVID condition, also known as long COVID.
    Canada's research response to COVID-19 is cutting-edge, focusing on the needs of peoples and communities across the country, while contributing to international efforts against a shared global health threat.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member spoke at length about the value of international research co-operation. In most cases, in principle, I would certainly agree with him.
    However, we are speaking specifically today about instances of co-operation between the Winnipeg lab and the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Medical Sciences, as well as other forms of collaboration between Chinese military-affiliated labs and a Canadian lab. This pertains to dangerous viruses, when we know those labs were involved in gain-of-function experiments. That is, military-affiliated labs in China are intentionally making viruses more dangerous.
    I would like a clear answer from this member because we have not had much clarity in terms of what his views are on this motion at all. Does he think that there is a limit? Does he think that Canadian researchers should not be cooperating with foreign militaries in cases where those militaries are, as we speak, involved in committing genocide against minority communities? Is that a point beyond which research co-operation cannot and should not occur?
    Mr. Speaker, first off, our government takes any threat to research security, intellectual property and domestic business interests seriously. We have established policies and processes through the Public Health Agency of Canada that allow for appropriate scientific collaboration while adhering to established security controls.
    That is the way we proceed in our government. That is the way our researchers, which are the best in the world, proceed in what they are doing and what they are undertaking.
    Mr. Speaker, does the member agree that transparency on public health issues is the most effective way to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories?
    Mr. Speaker, of course transparency and accountability are very important. Obviously, we understand that. When there are issues dealing with privacy or national security, where disclosure cannot be made public, we must have a balance in our system. We aim to achieve that balance on a continual basis.
    Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to enter into the debate today, I want to say that I will be voting for this motion to address, as the Conservative Party has suggested we should, the arrangements between scientists in Winnipeg, the People's Republic of China and its government.
    Since this hon. member has raised issues of international scientific collaboration and research, I wonder if he could explain why the decision was taken by the Government of Canada, on the eve of COVID, to cut the funds to the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, which would have given us a much more advanced warning of what we were facing with COVID-19.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government has invested vast resources in research funding, both domestically and with international partnerships, and we will continue to do so. I look forward to our scientists continuing to co-operate on an international level with their peers to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are distributed globally, that further research on other matters at hand remain as such, and that we continue going down that path.
    Mr. Speaker, very quickly, does the member agree with this motion? Does he intend to vote for or against it?
    Mr. Speaker, I continue to analyze the motion at hand. What I will say is the Public Health Agency of Canada employs some of the best researchers and scientists in Canada. Obviously there are many issues that cannot be disclosed for privacy implications, so we must balance national security interests with the issue of transparency. That is how we will proceed forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in the debate on the Conservative motion. I am connecting to this virtual Parliament from Sault Ste. Marie, which is the traditional territory of the Garden River First Nation, Batchewana First Nation and the Métis people. I want to acknowledge that our hearts are very sad with the discovery of the 215 graves. We are committed to truth and reconciliation and will continue to move forward with it.
    Science and research are more important than ever. As the global pandemic has made abundantly clear, science and research need to take centre stage to help us address economic, environmental and social challenges.
    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have mobilized Canadian researchers and life science companies to support large-scale efforts to combat COVID-19. As part of its more than $1 billon COVID-19 response fund, our government invested $217 million in coronavirus research and medical countermeasures to advance projects undertaken by university researchers and others.
    We have also supported the mobilization of experts from Canada's scientific policy and health communities to launch CanCOVID. Hosted by the University of Toronto, this rapid response network connects researchers on different angles of the pandemic, from diagnostics to studying the impacts on vulnerable populations.
    Expert advice from the research community and industry has been a key part of our response. The government relies on an evidence-based decision-making process in these and other areas.
     For example, Canada's chief science advisor convenes committees of experts to assess the state of knowledge on key issues related to the pandemic. A vaccine task force was also created and comprised of vaccine, immunology experts and industry leaders to provide advice on Canada's vaccine strategy.
    However, our commitment to science did not start with the pandemic. Since 2016, the government has committed more than $13 billion to support research and science across Canada. Building on these investments, budget 2021 represents more than $3 billion in new funding for Canadian researchers and scientists. This includes support for cutting-edge life science research, biotechnology and for national strategies on artificial intelligence, quantum and genomics.
    This support recognizes the importance of science and research to address future challenges and as a key pillar of our economic growth strategy. This includes more than $440 million over 10 years to support a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy: $360 million over seven years to launch a national quantum strategy; and $400 million over six years to support a new pandemic genomics strategy. Each of these strategies will help advance key technological advantages for Canada and ensure we have strong communities of research, talent and commercial activity across this great nation.
    The Government of Canada recognizes that Canadian innovators need our support to ensure our economic benefits from the enormous growth opportunities ahead. By leveraging our strengths and talent, we can ensure that Canadian values are embedded across widely used global technology platforms. Canadian scientists and entrepreneurs are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities and Canada benefits from advances in these technologies through effective commercialization.
    In addition, we recognize the importance of Canada's colleges in assisting small businesses to develop and adopt new technologies and processes. We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. As we focus on recovery, we must help businesses seize new opportunities to innovate, grow and become more competitive. That is why budget 2021 proposes $52.6 million over two years through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the industrial research assistance program to support over 1,400 new collaborations between colleges and small businesses.
    We have also learned of the importance of being better prepared for possible future pandemics. Strategic investments in cutting-edge life sciences, research and biotechnology are a critical part of that. These growing fields are not only essential to our safety, but they are fast-growing sectors that support well-paying jobs and attract new investments.
     We will make investments that will help protect the health of Canadians in the future by setting aside almost $1 billion to strengthen Canada's biomanufacturing and life science sectors, including $500 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support the bioscience capital and infrastructure needs of post-secondary institutions and research hospitals; $250 million for the federal research granting council to create a new tri-council biomedical research fund; and new investments in anti-microbiological resistance, to name a few.

  (1310)  

    The National Research Council is also working with partners across government to advance research and development for vaccines and therapies to prevent and treat the spread of COVID-19, in line with the best advice provided by the Government of Canada’s vaccine task force and therapeutics task force.
     NRC’s industrial research assistance program is also working with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada to provide support to three innovative firms to scale up production facilities and increase Canada’s biomanufacturing capacity. Our continued success in science and innovation and in addressing global challenges to our well-being will come not only from domestic initiatives, but also from strong and sustained international collaboration.
    Much has been achieved to date by Canadian researchers who are constantly working collaboratively across borders to achieve research excellence.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    I think it is deplorable that the Liberal members keep changing the subject. My hon. colleague is going completely off topic talking about economic development, which has absolutely nothing to do with the important Conservative motion we are debating. This is the second time this has happened today, since another Liberal MP went completely off topic this morning talking about vaccines. I would like my hon. colleague to be called to order.
    I thank the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his comments. He is absolutely right that the relevance of speeches is part of the Standing Orders.
    In this case, I was listening to the parliamentary secretary's speech, and I think the subject he is raising has to do with international research on public health, which is certainly relevant.
    However, as I said during the last intervention on the relevance of speeches, today's opposition motion is very specific. Most members do not have the same latitude, so I would ask the parliamentary secretary to ensure that the rest of his speech remains relevant to the subject at hand.
    I invite the parliamentary secretary to continue.

  (1315)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is encouraging Canadian researchers to further collaborate with the world's best and to keep Canada at the forefront of science and innovation through investments in international research under the new frontiers in research fund. Through shared objectives and principles for international research collaboration, the federal research funding agencies are also strengthening Canada’s reputation as a valued partner in international research and innovation.
    Interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral, national and international collaborations continue to amplify the impacts of research on pandemic recovery and future resilience. To this end, Canada is working very closely with international platforms to facilitate global efforts in information sharing, research collaborations and knowledge mobilization, such as the United Nations Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery, the World Health Organization and the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness.
     At the same time, we are witnessing new international threats to Canada’s research enterprises. For example, we are aware of new and evolving challenges to protect Canadian researchers’ intellectual property from actors that pose security threats or attempt to subvert rules and accepted norms.
    Moving forward, we will continue to strive to find the balance between how best to sustain these international science, technology and innovation activities, while supporting our values like good global governance, freedom of science and valuing diversity, equality and inclusion in research in the face of these new challenges. This is happening from coast to coast to coast.
    In northern Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie has a variety of international research happening at the local university and college through the Ontario Forest Research Institute, the Ontario Forest Research Institute and the MNR. In fact, we have some of the most Ph.D.s per capita in Canada, according to the local Economic Development Corporation. That research is happening all across Canada and in other places in northern Ontario, including the Experimental Lakes Area in Kenora, which recently received government funding to conduct very important research on water. It is attracting scientists from around the world. There are 60 lakes there and scientists from all over are coming. That collaboration continues as we finish our fight against COVID-19.
     We are calling on all scientists and researchers to continue that kind of collaboration. This speech is evidence that we have put our money where our mouth is to support and finish this fight with such resources that will enable us to continue to do the great work. I think of some young entrepreneurs, three young ladies from North Bay, who are right now seeking IP protection, without saying too much about their product, on some ultraviolet processes that will sterilize and help with COVID-19.
    The government is supporting a lot of research across Canada, and we need to continue to finish our fight against COVID-19.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member about the disclosure of documents to Parliament, which is the topic of today's opposition motion.
    In 2011, an opposition motion was put forward by the Liberal Party in this place. The motion read:
...given the undisputed privileges of Parliament under Canada's constitution, including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested, the government's continuing refusal to comply with reasonable requests for documents...represents a violation of the rights of Parliament...
    That motion was put forward by Ralph Goodale. Voting in favour of that Liberal opposition motion were the Prime Minister, the current foreign affairs minister, the current government House leader, the current government whip, the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member for Winnipeg North as well as the chair of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
    Given that the Liberals have in the past taken the position that Parliament has an absolute and unfettered right to access documents, does the member agree that right still continues to exist and that his government ought to also comply with the terms of the opposition day motion that was put forward by his party in the past?
    Mr. Speaker, when we talk about past history, it reminds me that our government, in 2015, created a very specific committee, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the NSICOP, which was a move to ensuring open and public government in a manner that appropriately protected sensitive information, including national security. It was established to review many matters. I would be interested to see how this group, which has members from both houses of Parliament and various opposition members, engage. They hold the appropriate security clearances and have express rights of access to other restricted information and—

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    We will continue with questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.
    Mr. Speaker, having listened to my colleague, I would say that I feel like anything related to the motion before us was redacted from his speech.
    The House is debating a motion asking “[t]hat an order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada in response to the...orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations”.
    Does the member agree with this motion? Can he talk to us about it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the question is a bit philosophical in its approach. I truly believe in this democratic process, and it is really important for us to come with the ability to discuss and to take a look at different tools in our tool box that we can use to finish the fight against COVID-19 and to continue to make sure we address security issues. There are lots of tools there, and processes.
    I am reminded of what a former local politician used to say when I was on city council for many years. He said, “I make my decisions in chambers.” I know a lot of people have already said their position up front, but I have put forward some ideas and I am listening. At the end of the day, the most important thing to know is that our national security that we have in place in Canada is doing an excellent job and needs to be supported, as well as our scientists and researchers. It is so important for them to continue to be supported, as they are the ones who are saving Canadian lives.

[Translation]

    I would like to briefly come back to the Prime Minister's accusations of racism.
    Let us remember one thing: Since the beginning of the debate on the problem at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, all the Prime Minister has been doing is accusing us of racism.
    Every time the opposition raises an issue that deals with the Chinese Communist regime, as I did last week, the government calls us racist. As I speak, I am looking around to see whether the Prime Minister is going to stand up and accuse me of racism.
    That is a serious problem. Using racism as an excuse is a really feeble defence. Racism has nothing to do with it. The Conservative Party has never attacked Chinese people. Our attacks have always been directed at the Chinese Communist regime, which is aggressive and dangerous. What we are saying has absolutely nothing to do with the people of China.
    When we raise the issue of Huawei, we are accused of being racist. The Prime Minister never takes a strong stand with regard to the two Michaels, who were imprisoned on trumped-up charges. He even once said that he prefers a communist system to a democracy, which is very disturbing.
    We ask questions in committee and in the House. We mostly ask questions in the House because this is where the Prime Minister answers our questions, when he feels like it, that is. This was his answer last time:
     The rise in anti-Asian racism we have been seeing over the past number of months should be of concern to everyone. I would recommend that the members of the Conservative Party, in their zeal to make personal attacks, not start to push too far into intolerance towards Canadians of diverse origins.
    Even The Globe and Mail said the Prime Minister's answer was a foolish thing to say.
    This is not the first time the Prime Minister has called us racist. Let us not forget that, last year, early in the COVID-19 crisis, the opposition suggested it might be a good idea to cancel flights from China. What was the response? We were accused of being racist. It was not our fault the virus came from China. That is the reason we wanted to cancel flights from that country.
    I know that racism is a delicate subject and that it is easy to lob such accusations. For our part, we always put public health and safety first, regardless of the origins of the virus.
    Europe experienced a similar problem. Would anyone cry racism if we were speaking of European people and democracy? Absolutely not. The same is true in this case. If the problem came from Italy, we would be saying the same thing about banning flights. No matter where those flights came from, we would be saying the same thing.
    The same thing applies to Huawei. We asked the government many questions in the House about Huawei's probable, possible, and indeed assured interference in our telecommunications system. Once again, we were accused of being racist.
    We are not going to give up just because of the Prime Minister's accusations. We will persevere, because we are here to work on behalf of Canadian interests. This is why our motion includes the following:
     That an order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada in response to the March 31, 2021, and May 10, 2021, orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, respecting the transfer of Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in March 2019, and the subsequent revocation of security clearances for, and termination of the employment of, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and Dr. Keding Cheng.
    This is just one part of the problem that needs to be addressed.
    The second problem is the following. In September 2020, the Prime Minister appointed Iain Stewart as president of the Public Health Agency of Canada. This appointment was pure and simple politics. The Prime Minister could have appointed any number of other Canadian men and women, but he chose to appoint Mr. Stewart.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Stewart recently appeared as a witness before the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, of which I am a member. He refused to provide relevant details about the security breach at the Winnipeg laboratory. The committee members requested unredacted versions of all the documents produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Mr. Stewart refused and continues to refuse to provide them. Just yesterday, we received redacted documents, despite the committee's clear demands.
    The problem is not simple. On the one hand, Iain Stewart is the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada for the sole reason that he was appointed by the Prime Minister. On the other hand, this same gentleman is telling us that it is impossible to provide unredacted information about the dismissal of two scientists linked to the Chinese Communist regime and the revocation of their security clearance because that would be a disclosure of personal information, which is legally prohibited by the Privacy Act.
    Mr. Stewart may be deliberately ignoring subparagraph 8(2)(m)(i) of the Privacy Act, which states:
    Subject to any other Act of Parliament, personal information under the control of a government institution may be disclosed
(m) for any purpose where, in the opinion of the head of the institution,
(i) the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure,
    In other words, the head of the institution, which could include the head of the laboratory, Iain Stewart, who is the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Minister of Health or the Prime Minister, may disclose personal information if they decide that it would serve the public interest better to reveal the truth than to hide it. That is what the act says.
    That said, neither the Prime Minister nor the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada have any legal grounds for doing what they are currently doing, which is hiding information.
    Let us not forget that documents sent to the committee that may contain sensitive national security information must first be reviewed by certain officials before they are shared with members of Parliament. It is not up to the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada to censor documents as he is doing. That is the job of the law clerk of the House. The clerks have the authority to do this work and ensure that the documents submitted to members are properly protected pursuant to the rules of the House, not Iain Stewart's rules.
    The question is whether Mr. Stewart is doing this on his own initiative. Did he decide that the information should not be shared with the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, or did the order come from the Prime Minister's Office?
    Is the Prime Minister too afraid that the truth will come out? If so, what does he have to fear?
    This is our national security and our country. If information from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg has been passed on to Wuhan and, for example, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has used some viruses to develop others, we have a right to know.
    If the members of the House of Commons do not have the most right to know, who does?
    This is about Canada's national security and best interests. The Conservative Party and I are very aware that some information must remain secret to prevent other countries from gaining access to information that is critical to our own security. However, it is not true that all of the information regarding the National Microbiology Laboratory, and especially the information that was given to the Chinese Communist regime, should be kept secret. We have the right to know.
    Our request is legitimate, and I believe that the opposition parties all agree with the Conservative Party of Canada that there is nothing racist about wanting to know what the Chinese Communist regime is up to. Canadians have the right to know what happened at the Winnipeg lab.

  (1330)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member has made reference to the importance of national security. It is interesting that in the first few years of government we put into place, like other Five Eyes countries, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which was actually established to review such potential matters, while ensuring appropriate safeguards.
    I am wondering if the member could provide any information to the House on whether the suggestion that is being suggested in the motion we are debating today has ever been raised with the chair of this particular committee, or to what degree the Conservatives would even support it going to this committee.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    Yesterday evening, the chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians did come to testify before the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations about its 2020 report. It was clear that we have serious problems in Canada. He even mentioned that we should act swiftly on the issue of cybersecurity.
    Should that committee review the documents? That is not what is at issue today. The issue is that the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada took it upon himself to hide information, and that is inconsistent with parliamentary privilege. All we want is to get the unredacted documents. The law clerk will take it from there.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    One thing struck me. The motion we are debating raises an issue of transparency. We want access to sensitive documents held by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Since this morning, the Liberals have been completely off topic. It must be said that the Liberals do not have a history of being transparent. Last year, we sought to find out the truth about the WE Charity scandal. When we got too close to discovering something, the Liberals prorogued Parliament. That was also about transparency. Today, the Liberals do not seem to be present in the least. They are talking about economic development and progress with the vaccination rollout.
    In my colleague's opinion, why is transparency so problematic for the Liberals?

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is the million-dollar question. Transparency and the Liberal Party are words that do not go together. That has been obvious for going on six years now.
    That was the case with everything to do with COVID-19, and that is why there will be a public inquiry led by a Conservative government.
    Why are they like that? I do not know, but I would like to know. It is a great mystery that we may be able to solve one day.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, throughout a number of interventions today, there have been discussions from members regarding the balance that needs to be struck between Canada's national security interests and the importance of international collaboration. I know the member touched on that briefly in his speech.
    Does he have any initial proposals that he would like the federal government to engage in on that front, where we look at sensitive information but also broaden our international collaboration, where many hands makes light work?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    Obviously, national security must be protected no matter which government is in power. We have to protect our security issues. I had my security clearances when I was in the military, so I know a thing or two about it.
    Even so, what we are talking about here is a unilateral Public Health Agency of Canada decision to redact the documents when that was not its job. All we are asking is for the documents to be sent to the committee. The law clerks will take care of any necessary redaction. Then the committee can get the documents, as provided by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
    We have time for a brief question.
    The hon. member for Drummond.
    Mr. Speaker, I must tell my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles that it is good to hear people speak to the motion we are debating today. This is not the case with my Liberal colleagues. In fact, we have to wonder if they have read the text. We are debating things today that are of great concern.
    Earlier, I asked the colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan what was holding the Liberals back from providing the information and being more transparent.
    Is it because they are afraid to step on the toes of a giant again and fear the consequences? Is it because they have something to hide?
    Why does my colleague think the Liberals are refusing to address this issue with transparency?
    It seems to me that this is a matter of utmost importance to national security.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a report here that is not secret. This report provides information about the type of viruses that were transferred by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. This report refers to Ebola, among others, but all kinds of other pathogens were shared by the laboratories. How Wuhan handles these pathogens is very questionable and that has repercussions.
    We are not spreading conspiracy theories, but in the context of COVID-19, we have to wonder about the management of all these pathogens and viruses. That is why it is essential that we understand what happened in Winnipeg.
    What was the lab's relationship with the Chinese Communist regime?
    It is essential because, as far as I am concerned, in this case China could quite simply be considered as an enemy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Winston Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.”
    Appeasement is the diplomatic policy of making concessions to an aggressive power hoping to avoid a conflict. In Churchill’s time, he was referring to Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement to Nazi Germany. Chamberlain’s ultimate act of appeasement was in ceding parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany under the 1938 Munich agreement in exchange for Hitler’s promise not to invade the rest of that country. However, in 1939, Hitler did just that.
     In 1940, Chamberlain lost the confidence of the house, leading to the prime ministership of Winston Churchill.
     Chamberlain emerged from history viewed as a weak, vacillating, indecisive and failed leader, so much so that Churchill quipped, “Poor Neville will come badly out of history.”
    Today, as a matter of foreign policy, there can be no bigger challenge than our relationship with China. The litany of foreign policy errors when it comes to China by the Prime Minister is truly astonishing.
     First, we had the national embarrassment in the aftermath of the arrest of Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou. Following the arrest, Canada’s ambassador to China and former Liberal cabinet minister John McCallum was unceremoniously fired. His embarrassing remarks included, among other things, how great it would be for Canada if the U.S. extradition request was just simply dropped, alleging that the intent of her arrest was to attempt to leverage trade concessions from China.
     These statements completely undermined Canada’s defence of the arrest, namely that Canada is a rule of law country and politicians do not meddle in these sorts of things.
    It is clear that when it comes to meddling in cases before the justice system, the Liberal government picks and chooses where it thinks it is appropriate to do so. That was evident when the Prime Minister tried to strong arm his then-minister of justice, the current member for Vancouver Granville, into interfering with the independent prosecutors over charges against SNC Lavalin.
     It is no wonder that when we said that Canada was a rule of law nation and that there was nothing the Prime Minister could do in the Wanzhou case, that the Chinese government simply did not believe us.
     The actions of the Prime Minister and the then ambassador seriously weakened our credibility. In retaliation for the arrest of Wanzhou, China did two things. It blocked imports of Canadian canola, pork and beef, hurting our farmers and our agriculture industry, and it arbitrarily arrested and detained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Those two Canadians remain imprisoned still today.
    Jonathan Manthorpe, author of Claws of the Panda, said:
    I think this has to be a lesson that you can’t deal with China like any other country that abides by the law and diplomatic norms. And in that respect, we’ve been a bit naive in the past.
     The reality is that China is not a friendly regime. Frankly, no better evidence of this exists than the arbitrary detention and trials of the two Michaels. Canada has been completely unable thus far to bring this matter to a positive conclusion in part because our credibility as a nation of laws was weakened by the actions of the Prime Minister in the SNC Lavalin affair.
    Then came the revelation that our military had decided to cancel training with the Chinese People's Liberation Army in 2019. I am really not sure who thought this was a good idea in the first place. In retrospect, this seems to be the obvious decision, and yet Global Affairs Canada actually pushed back against the military decision to cancel this in an apparent act of appeasement regarding the two Michaels.
     Additionally, while most countries have recognized the perils of doing business with Huawei, the Prime Minister simply will not rule it out.
     As well, serious concerns have been expressed about Canadian universities’ co-operation with the Chinese government on research projects. These concerns range from potential disclosure of intellectual property to national security concerns. Again, no action has been take by the Liberal government.
     As if this were not all enough for the Prime Minister to be on the highest alert in looking out for Canada's national security interests, now comes the issue at hand in today’s motion.
     In a May 20, Globe and Mail article, there was the revelation that scientists working in Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab had been collaborating with Chinese military researchers to study and experiment on deadly pathogens.
     This is a lab that works with some of the most infectious diseases on the planet. The security of not only the dangerous physical contents of the lab, but the highly sensitive information regarding its activities should be paramount and of the utmost importance. One of the scientists who co-authored some of the studies on this collaboration was reportedly from the People's Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, an obvious red flag, to be sure, if there ever was one.

  (1340)  

    Even the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has stated that the risk of collaboration with the People's Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences is a “very high risk”.
    As if that were not enough, in January of this year, two of the scientists at the Winnipeg lab were fired and escorted out of work by the RCMP after CSIS recommended that their security clearances be revoked on “national security grounds”. CSIS expressed concern over the nature of information being passed on to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
    Andy Ellis, a former CSIS assistant director, has called all this “madness”, saying it is “ill-advised” and classified the actions of the Public Health Agency of Canada for co-operating with the People's Liberation Army as “incredible naïvete”.
    It is incredibly alarming to see the Minister of Foreign Affairs continuously stonewalling questions on this matter. When asked in question period, we kept hearing answers from the minister stating “we are not at liberty to provide any more details at this point.” That just does not cut it. Canadians deserve answers, especially when it comes to matters as serious as these, matters that affect our country's national security.
    It should go without saying that Canadians should be rightly concerned when scientists at the top lab in the country are being fired for national security reasons and escorted out by the RCMP. We have government scientists closely collaborating with scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and China’s military, including shipping dangerous Ebola and Henipah viruses to Wuhan. Does the Canadian public not have a right to know what the extent of that co-operation was?
    How does a military scientist from the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences get granted access to work at Canada's National Microbiology Lab anyway?
     I have received many questions from members of my community about these issues, as I am sure other members have, and we are trying to get them answers.
    It is the duty of the federal government to protect national security and the safety and security of Canadians. By refusing to be transparent and provide answers to these important questions, the government has failed to assure Canadians that it has upheld this duty.
    It is the duty of members of the House of Commons and its committees to hold the government to account by investigating and ordering the production of documents. The Special Committee on Canada-China Relations has tried to get this information, but the Public Health Agency of Canada heavily redacted documents and failed to comply with the request of the committee.
    That is why we have introduced this motion today, to order the government to produce these documents. Members of that committee have sought to use this power responsibly and in a way that protects national security. This is evident in the motions adopted by the committee on March 31 and May 10, as well as today’s motion, which have been worded to protect national security by having the law clerk review them first.
    The government’s repeated refusal to comply with the committee’s orders to produce documents is troubling and continues to raise very serious questions.
    The optimistic heady days of “sunny ways” have quickly given way to a cloudy haze. I recall when the Prime Minister proudly proclaimed, “We will make information more accessible requiring transparency to be a fundamental principle.” Apparently when it comes to the Prime Minister’s well-known admiration for China’s dictatorship, transparency becomes invisible.
     Given the Prime Minister’s naive and appeasing posture toward the Chinese government, it appears, as Churchill said, that the crocodile may eat us last.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, Stephen Harper actually negotiated a secret trade arrangement between China and Canada in complete silence. The member tries to give the impression that we lack transparency.
    My question for the member is the same question I posed for his colleague. We have a standing committee, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, that is supposed to deal with security issues. Does the member not believe that might be an appropriate place to have this discussion, if in fact the Conservatives' approach is genuine in wanting to get to the bottom of the issue?
    Mr. Speaker, through you, I would say in response to that question that NSICOP is not a committee of Parliament; it is a committee of the executive branch, which is under the control of the Prime Minister. The government, especially in cases like this where there are serious questions of national security, simply should not be investigating itself.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, in an OPQ that I put through last year on this exact topic we found out there was no other institute that asked for this transfer, only the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Twelve strains of Ebola and three strains of the Nipah virus were authorized for transfer. No compensation was received. No conditions on the transfer of the material were in place. I am curious how my hon. colleague feels this information should be properly treated. How should we be dealing with this terrible situation?
    Mr. Speaker, I think we have a very serious situation and matter of national security here. It is clear that the Prime Minister and his government are not taking it seriously. I think all Canadians should be very alarmed by that. When the Prime Minister was asked a serious question last week by our deputy leader about this issue, he responded by accusing the Conservatives of fomenting anti-Asian racism. That is shameful behaviour. The Prime Minister is not taking this seriously and Canadians need to be aware of that and should express their frustration.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments were exactly on point with respect to NSICOP. I just want to add to them.
    First, the existence of NSICOP does not, in any way, take away from the rights or prerogatives of a parliamentary committee to send for documents. These rights are unfettered and the legislation that created NSICOP in no way changed that.
    Second, NSICOP is not a committee of Parliament; it is a committee that includes parliamentarians, but its membership is controlled by the Prime Minister and it cannot make any information public except by the permission of the executive branch. Therefore, it does not have any of the tools required for effective parliamentary scrutiny with respect to the actions of the executive.
    As a member of the Canada-China committee, I can say that we were trying to do a study on national security, not as a committee of parliamentarians controlled by the executive, but as a parliamentary committee that reports to Parliament and holds the executive accountable. We have a right to request these documents. We need to be able to use these documents in the research we are doing. Whatever may be happening within the executive branch has nothing to do with and does not take away from the rights of parliamentary committees to use their prerogatives to hold the government accountable.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree 100% with the comments of my colleague.
    Mr. Speaker, in the question that was just posed I saw the Conservative opposition members being a little defensive realizing that oops, maybe once again, they are missing the boat on a very important fact. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say they are genuinely concerned and completely overlook a committee that was established in order to deal with things of this nature. On the other hand, when that is being suggested to them, they say that is not good enough, they want to make it more political. That is really what the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan is trying to say.
    The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians has representatives from all political parties and they have a certain security clearance. Everything that the Conservative members are trying to achieve today could be achieved through that committee. However, the Conservatives have a problem with that, because for them, the issue is not what is in the public's best interests, it is what is in the Conservative Party's best political interests.
    We have seen that repeatedly. We can go back to last summer and remember the thousands and thousands of papers that were provided to a standing committee. At a time when Canada was in the midst of a pandemic, the Conservative Party of Canada wanted to focus its attention on diverting health care professionals within Health Canada to provide papers and to appear before committee. If I believed for a moment that it had nothing to do with the partisan politics of the Conservative Party, I would be a little more sympathetic.
    Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory is a secure facility. We all know that. Everyone working at and visiting the microbiology laboratory must undergo security screening and adhere to strict security protocols and policies. I had the opportunity to drive by the lab on Arlington Street on many occasions and it sits there in isolation. One gets the impression that there are important things that the federal government is doing in that facility. This government, more so than Stephen Harper, invests in science and supports our labs. I think that has been clearly demonstrated.
    If we read through the resolution for the opposition day, two things come to my mind: One, is yes, there is a lot of detail and again they are asking for papers and again they are trying to have it go to a committee and again they want to get another minister, the Minister of Health, who has been answering questions during question period virtually every day now. They want that special committee to deal with it.
    That is the one thing that comes to my mind in reading it and that is the most obvious. When I first read it, the first thing that came to my mind was that the legislation we passed a number of years ago that we asked the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to bring in. We have the Five Eyes countries and Canada was the only one out of the Five Eyes that did not have a national security and intelligence committee per se. We established that.

  (1355)  

    As some of the Conservative members will point out, there is a different reporting mechanism but there are members of the Conservative Party who are on that committee. Within that committee they do have the ability to look into the matter at hand and maintain confidence and provide ideas and recommendations and they have done some fine work in the past.
    My first thought in reading this motion was this: Has the Conservative Party given any thought in regard to that committee? Based on the two questions, I now understand why the Conservatives do not want to go to that committee. It is because it is not political enough.
    The other thing I find amazing is that here we have a limited number of opposition days and Canadians are thinking of the pandemic and things such as the vaccines, we just tabled billions and billions of dollars being spent in a budget, and this is what the Conservative Party has chosen. I do not think the Conservative Party is in tune with what is happening in the real world or sensitive to what Canadians want us to be talking about.
    I see that my time is expiring, so I will be able to continue on, possibly after question period.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary will have 13 and a half minutes remaining in his time for his remarks when the House next gets back to debate on the question, and, of course, the usual period for questions and comments.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

National Indigenous History Month

    Mr. Speaker, June is National Indigenous History Month. Now, more than ever, we ask Canadians to celebrate and create awareness of the history, heritage and diversity of indigenous peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength and resilience of indigenous communities.
    We recognize the importance of indigenous knowledge, culture and ceremonies that occur during this time, celebrations that reflect the diversity of indigenous peoples across Canada and provide opportunities to share stories, traditions and culture in a way that keeps us connected.
    June marks the sixth anniversary of #IndigenousReads, which is aimed to showcase literary works by first nations, Inuit and Métis authors and to help increase our understanding of indigenous issues, culture and history. Through socially distanced or online events, I urge all parliamentarians and Canadians to take time to celebrate National Indigenous History Month.

Cannabis

    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was selling the idea of legal marijuana, he said, “We need to make sure we're keeping our kids safe and keeping our communities safe by removing the black market and the criminal gangs and the street organizations from it.” It is clear the Prime Minister was making things up.
    In the last two years, over a dozen multi-million dollar illegal grow operations run by organized crime have been busted in Ontario alone. Organized crime is making millions of dollars hiding behind the loopholes in the Liberal cannabis legislation. The profits of the drug trade are being used to fuel more crimes. Some of the legal operations are not much better. Mars Wrigley, the famous candy company known for Skittles, is suing Canadian cannabis companies for using their branding on drugs, branding designed to attract children.
    It will take a Conservative government to fix this mess.

National AccessAbility Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week is National AccessAbility Week, with this year’s theme being “Disability Inclusion 2021: Leaving no one behind”.
    When we remove barriers to employment to allow people living with disabilities to enter the workforce, we create a more positive work environment and a better bottom line. Our government is moving forward with a disability inclusion action plan, which will include a disability benefit and an employment strategy.
    Locally, I have seen outstanding work done by organizations such as Goodwill Amity Group, Community Living Oakville, Community Living Burlington, and Xplore Employment, which is enhancing hiring practices to maximize business potential through hiring people living with disabilities.
    My good friend Karina Scali lives with Williams Syndrome, but that has not held her back. She will graduate in 2022 with an early childhood education diploma at Sheridan College. This is why disability inclusion matters. It is so that people like Karina can succeed and thrive.

[Translation]

World Milk Day

    Mr. Speaker, today, Tuesday, June 1, is World Milk Day.
    It is an opportunity to recognize the contribution of dairy farmers, who work hard to bring to our tables safe, high-quality milk, as well as other much-needed milk products, such as butter, yogourt and cheese. Dairy farmers represent a driving economic force in rural municipalities and contribute to the dynamic use of our land.
    Let us show dairy farmers that they are important and let us do everything we can to quickly pass Bill C-216. Farmers should not have to worry about their market shares being undermined again. All of the parties have paid lip service to the idea of protecting supply management. We are now asking them to put their words into action.
    Let us hurry up and pass Bill C-216 and protect supply management. Let us raise our glass of milk to the health of our local dairy farmers.

World Milk Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is World Milk Day. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge our dairy farmers, who play a key role in Canada's agricultural sector and our economy.
    Canada is proud of its dairy industry, which adheres to some of the strictest quality standards in the world. Our farmers are also innovating to make their operations as environmentally friendly as possible. Canadian milk now has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world.
    The dairy industry is the lifeblood of our rural communities. This year, I had the pleasure of speaking with local farmers in my riding of Brome—Missisquoi a number of times. Our government has always been there to support them, and I will always make the growth of this industry my priority.
    I invite all Canadians to grab a glass of milk or an ice cream cone and join me in celebrating World Milk Day.

  (1405)  

Canadian Environment Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week is Canadian Environment Week, which seeks to encourage us to help protect our environment. That is a subject that my Conservative Party colleagues and I care a lot about. The health and safety of our planet are at stake. We are talking about what we will leave our children and future generations. This is my responsibility as a father.
    I would have liked to be able to tell the House that a lot of progress has been made under this government, but unfortunately, the Liberals' broken promise to plant more than two billion trees and their failure to respond to the urgent need to act now to help our environment are just a few examples of this government's lack of commitment and incompetence. Even Greenpeace is criticizing this government.
    Tomorrow is Clean Air Day in Canada. Let us work together to keep our air clean. We cannot celebrate the government's achievements this year, but next year's Canadian Environment Week will be an opportunity to see that, with a new Conservative government and its environmental plan, greenhouse gas emissions will have been reduced with the help—
    The hon. member for Beaches—East York.

[English]

Frontline Health Care Workers

    Madam Speaker, vaccines are the way out of the pandemic and there is nothing more important than each one of us doing our part. For most of us, that simply means getting our shot. However, for the incredible frontline health care professionals and volunteers across our country, it means an unending commitment to help others receive their shot.
    For example, our East Toronto Health Partners have led a phenomenal effort, including through pop-up clinics, to make sure no one is left behind. They even set a national record of over 10,000 doses administered in less than 24 hours. I was glad to be one of them. Thanks to these collective efforts, the single-dose strategy has saved many lives, and Canada is on pace for both a higher level of full vaccination and a much faster overall rollout than almost every other country.
    No, it has not been perfect, and yes, we must do much more to address barriers to global vaccine equity. However, for today, on behalf of Beaches—East York, I just want to thank every single person who has contributed. We are lucky to live in Canada and to be surrounded by so many people who bring such compassion and hard work to our communities.

Jatinder Singh Randhawa

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment and recognize the achievements of Jatinder Singh Randhawa, a Surrey local and friend who championed Punjabi arts and culture across Canada.
    Since 2008, the Shan E Punjab Arts Club he founded has taught thousands of youth in the Lower Mainland the art of Punjabi bhangra and giddha dance. From the Olympics to Parliament Hill, Mr. Randhawa’s students delivered his passion across the country. He was affectionately called the “King of Bhangra”. He was a father to Bhavneet and husband to Rupinder.
    While his loss has left a deep wound in the entire Surrey community, his contributions will continue to inspire the coming generations to love the arts, live passionately and give it forward.

North Regina Little League

    Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday in Regina, hundreds of young boys and girls did something that many of us took for granted when we were children. They grabbed a bat and glove, and headed out to the ball diamond. Government lockdowns cancelled sports last summer, but with Saskatchewan's restrictions finally being lifted, baseball season was back on.
    Today, I pay tribute to the dozens of volunteers at the North Regina Little League. With very short notice and lots of uncertainty, they were able to pull it all together. It took a lot of effort to organize teams, book facilities and plan a season in such a tight time frame. I also want to thank all the parents who helped coach and those who helped get the fields ready to play. This will give us all a season to remember. Thanks to their hard work, kids were able to close their laptops and swap their COVID masks for batting gloves.
    There is a magical baseball phrase that goes, “If you build it, they will come.” This year, we can add, “If you let them, they will play”. On behalf of everyone in Regina—Qu'Appelle, and especially starting pitcher Henry Scheer, we thank North Regina Little League.

[Translation]

Loïck Thomas

    Mr. Speaker, a young boy back home in Madawaska—Restigouche is proving that one small gesture can make a big difference. Four-year-old Loïck Thomas was disgusted by all of the litter he was seeing, so in late March, he started picking up litter and putting it into garbage bags.

  (1410)  

[English]

    After having reached his first objective of collecting 1,000 garbage bags, this young boy has set himself a new challenge and is now aiming for 10,000 bags. Through social media, this beautiful initiative by Loïck and his family inspires people of all ages, even outside New Brunswick, to participate in this good deed.
    How can we help Loïck to meet his challenge? It is very simple. A person can just post a photo of themselves and their garbage bag full of waste and share it on the Facebook page “Projet de Loïck Project”.

[Translation]

     Let us all work together to help our planet, one bag at a time.

World Milk Day

    Mr. Speaker, June 1 is recognized around the globe as World Milk Day. This is an important day for Canada and especially for Quebec. It is a day to acknowledge the significant contributions made by the dairy industry, such as providing healthy and nutritious food, as well as dairy farmers' responsible, sustainable and conscientious practices.
    Canadian milk is second to none. It is superior to its rivals in every respect. However, we must never forget that our dairy industry is under constant attack from foreign countries looking to scoop up market share with lesser-quality milk. We must never let our guard down. I am proud of our local dairy industry workers. We must protect them.
    Our dairy industry is a world leader, and the hard work of our farmers, producers and processors does not go unnoticed. I encourage everyone to join me in raising a virtual glass to our dairy industry and to the Canadians who work hard to make it prosper. Let us continue to support them together.

World Milk Day

    Today is the 20th anniversary of World Milk Day.

[English]

    This is a day to recognize Canadian dairy producers, who work hard supplying the country with nutritious products. Every day, our farmers wake up with a passion and drive to provide us with quality wholesome dairy products that are produced with care, safety and sustainability.
    I have visited many dairy farms and have witnessed the hard work and dedication required to get quality products to market such as chocolate milk, yogourt, cheese and ice cream, to name a few. Please join me in celebrating World Milk Day by raising a cold glass to our Canadian dairy farmers.

Shannen Koostachin

    Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to describe the squalid and dangerous conditions that the children of Attawapiskat were being educated in, or the indifference of the government officials who knew these children might never see a real school, but let me tell the House about the fire that I saw in the eyes of 13-year-old Shannen Koostachin when she vowed that the little brothers and sisters of James Bay would have a safe, comfy school to go to.
    Shannen lit a fire across this country. She took on the government. She inspired a young generation of activists because she said it was not acceptable that first nations children are being denied their rights in a country as rich as Canada. We lost Shannen 11 years ago today in a terrible accident. Her story lives on in movies and books, and as a comic book superhero, but most of all, Shannen's dream continues to challenge us.
    I was honoured to know this young warrior. If she were here today, she would say that the systemic discrimination against this young generation of first nations children must end now, because every child has the right to hope and dream for a better future. That was Shannen's dream. We need to make it a reality.

[Translation]

Jacques Lacoursière

    Mr. Speaker, it is not often that a historian leaves such a mark on his people that he himself becomes a prominent part of his own nation's history, but that is what happened to Jacques Lacoursière, whom we lost earlier today.
    On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to extend my condolences to his family, his loved ones and his magnificent region, the Mauricie. Jacques Lacoursière spent his life showing Quebeckers that their history is as beautiful as that of any other country. His book A People's History of Quebec is one of our most significant history books. I will also highlight Épopée en Amérique, a documentary series he produced with Gilles Carle that explores our history in a different format.
    Jacques Lacoursière was made a knight of the Ordre national du Québec, but his legacy was also recognized throughout the French-speaking world, as he was made a knight of the Ordre de la Pléiade and received the insignia of the Legion of Honour. Let us honour the memory and the work of Jacques Lacoursière. It is undoubtedly the best way to thank such a great historian. We will remember him.

  (1415)  

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, Alberta has been an engine of economic growth for our country, but since the Liberals came to power, Albertans have suffered from their failed economic experiments. We suffered through job losses when the Liberals decided to work against Canada's oil and gas industry. During the months of lockdowns and uncertainty, we have experienced the highest unemployment rates in the country. Canadians need a dependable path out of this pandemic and we need a government that is serious about economic recovery.
    Canada's Conservatives got Canada out of the last recession and we have a plan to recover the one million jobs lost during the pandemic. We are offering a clear alternative to the risk and uncertainty that is imagined by the Liberal government. The Conservative plan will safely secure our future and deliver economic growth and jobs for Canadian workers and their families. Our work will help those Canadians who have suffered the most during this pandemic and create opportunity in all sectors of the economy and in all parts of the country.

National AccessAbility Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to mark the beginning of the fifth annual National AccessAbility Week celebrating the contributions that Canadians with disabilities make to our great country. The theme this year is “Disability Inclusion 2021: Leaving no one behind”, aligning with our plan to build back better. This includes engaging Canadians and developing the first-ever disability inclusion action plan and key investments in programs such as the enabling accessibility fund.
    As part of our pandemic response, we worked tirelessly to put a disability lens on decision-making, ensuring that our supports and relief measures were disability-inclusive. As we move forward, we are more committed than ever to a disability-inclusive economic recovery that truly leaves no one behind.
    I invite members and all Canadians to join the conversation around disability inclusion and to follow Accessible Canada on Twitter and Facebook to join the National AccessAbility Week celebrations.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the tragedy uncovered at the former residential school in Kamloops is only the beginning.

[English]

    The tragedy uncovered at the former residential school is the latest tragedy in the national shame of the residential schools program. In the spirit of reconciliation and partnership, I ask the Prime Minister this: Will the government commit to swift action on calls to action 71 to 76 in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work on these calls to action. The discovery of the remains of more than 200 children at the former residential school in Kamloops is heartbreaking. We need to acknowledge that the residential schools are a reality and a tragedy that existed in Canada.

[English]

    To honour of the memory of these lost children who got sent away to residential schools and never came home, we have lowered the flags to half-mast. We continue to work with families and communities across the country to put them at the centre of the healing and the research process. We will continue to work with them. We will honour their memories.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, the government is withholding troubling information regarding security breaches at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory. We do not know how scientists with ties to the Chinese military received multiple security clearances. We do not know how these scientists got approval to send virus samples to China.
    As the world commits to investigating the source of the coronavirus, why is the Liberal government covering things up?
    On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, we believe in openness and transparency, including in matters touching on national security. That is why six years ago we created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to study issues around national security, gathering members from all parties in the House to lean in carefully on things of high sensitivity. That is why we encourage the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to look at issues like this, to make sure that we can find answers that all Canadians need to be reassured about.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's secret committee does not deprive Parliament of its ability to hold the government to account. It does not deprive Canadians of their right to know the truth, after countless cover-ups by the government.
    Two scientists with connections to the Wuhan Institute of Virology were marched out of our top-secret lab. How did these scientists get high security approvals? How did they get approval from the government to send virus samples to China? Why is the government keeping Canadians in the dark?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are many questions that need to be pursued, and that is exactly why we created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
    The fact that the Conservative leader just referred to it as “the Prime Minister's secret committee” goes to part of the problem of why the Conservative government, under Stephen Harper, for 10 years refused to bring in any oversight by parliamentarians of our national security apparatuses. We all remember the real concerns about Stephen Harper and Bill C-51 and labelling terrorists in Canada.
    We brought forward a committee of parliamentarians who have the security clearances necessary to do this work.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, two scientists with ties to the Chinese military were expelled from our top-secret laboratory. The Liberal government refuses to justify its actions.
    How were the scientists able to get top security clearance for our laboratory?
    Mr. Speaker, these are important questions that have to do with national security.
    I know that members from the opposition party do not want to jeopardize national security. That is why every party is involved in the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. This committee has the power and ability to study the most sensitive issues around national security. That would be the best forum for getting answers to that question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is saying that we are putting the security of Canadians at risk by asking basic questions of accountability to the government. The Prime Minister is putting Canadian safety at risk with his approval of transactions to Chinese state-owned enterprises and his refusal to act on Huawei. He is putting Canada's reputation globally at risk, as we are the only Five Eyes ally partnering with China at a time that it is taking our citizens hostage and committing cyber-attacks and human rights violations.
    When will the Prime Minister finally take a serious approach to the risks with respect to Communist China?
    Mr. Speaker, we see once again that the Conservative leader and the Conservative Party will never hesitate to try to score partisan political points, including on the backs of our own national security.
    Members of this government take seriously our responsibilities to keep Canadians safe. We will continue to. That is why, among other things, we created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, something the Conservatives refused to do when they were in office. It has members from all parties, and they are able to come together and lean in deeply on national security issues. They have produced tremendous reports, including with strong representation from the Conservative Party.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the arts and culture sector expressed concerns about the initial version of Bill C-10, which amends the Broadcasting Act.
    The Bloc Québécois proposed significant changes with respect to the ownership and effective control of businesses, new Canadian programming and new French-language programming. The Bloc Québécois also offered to ensure that Bill C-10 is passed before the end of the session.
    However, the government is squabbling with the Conservatives instead of moving ahead on Bill C-10. Does the Prime Minister intend to ensure that the Broadcasting Act is passed this month?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the partnerships we have with several parties in the House, including the Bloc Québécois, to protect our artists and our content creatures, I mean creators, across the country.
    We recognize that the new reality of the digital age requires that we adopt new means to support the cultural economy across the country. We continue to move forward with Bill C-10, which will ensure that our culture is protected across the country, and we hope to pass this bill by the end of the session.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, our “creatures” will need more than hope.
    The Broadcasting Act is an emergency for the cultural community, an emergency for francophone artists. If it is not passed, it will be because the government is playing political chicken with the Conservatives at the expense of artists, creators, and Quebec's film and television industry.
    Is the Prime Minister aware that if Bill C-10 is not passed by the House and the Senate by the end of June, he will have an extremely heavy political price to pay in Quebec and among artists?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has always demonstrated its commitment to artists and to the cultural community. It will continue to do so.
    During this pandemic, we have implemented targeted measures for the arts community and our artists, who needed additional support. This government has been there for them since we first took office. We reversed the Harper government's cuts, and we have been there to protect the cultural community.
    We will continue to work to get Bill C-10 passed. It is indeed concerning that the Conservatives are once again standing in the way of Canadian and Quebec culture, but we will be there to support it.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are still reeling from the discovery of 215 indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops. However, while Canadians are reeling from this horror, we cannot ignore the fact that indigenous communities continue to face injustice today. The Prime Minister is fighting indigenous kids in court, and continues to fight residential school survivors in court. As Cindy Blackstock says, “We need to make sure that the injustices stop today.”
    Will the Prime Minister commit to stop fighting indigenous kids and residential school survivors in court, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear on this and many other issues in regard to the work we need to do together on reconciliation. Every survivor deserves compensation. We will be there for that. We will work with them and with communities to get there. We also need to fix child and family services. We were the first government to pass legislation to do just that.
    We are on the cusp of transformative change. We have been working on it. Over the past years we have made many changes. There is more to do. We will continue to stand with indigenous communities across this country as we do that.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children has shocked the nation. We mourn the loss of those children, but we cannot mourn this loss without acknowledging the fact that indigenous communities continue to suffer injustices today.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to stop fighting indigenous kids and residential school survivors in court, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, for the past six years, we have been working with indigenous communities and survivors across the country to heal from these tragedies and build a better present and future for all indigenous peoples.
    As for compensation, we have recognized as a government that compensation will be given to residential school survivors. We are currently working on this with the community, in order to determine the correct amounts.
    We will continue to be there to support indigenous communities and individuals across the country.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, last week President Biden ordered U.S. intelligence to investigate two likely theories on the origin of the coronavirus, one being that it originated from human contact with an infected animal, and the other that it came from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Last weekend, the foreign affairs minister said the government supports the U.S. investigation.
    Given that government scientists at the government's lab in Winnipeg closely collaborated with the Wuhan lab, will the government make available to U.S. investigators all relevant documents, including the scientists' lab notes?
    Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, the two individuals in question are no longer employed at the laboratory, and we cannot provide any further details.
    As to the origin of COVID-19, we believe and support the approach taken by President Biden to investigate something that has turned the world upside down and killed over three million people. We feel it is important to do everything we can to determine where COVID-19 originated from.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, we know that seven government scientists at the government's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg collaborated with scientists in China, particularly at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We also know that one of those government scientists, Dr. Qiu, made at least five trips to China in a two-year period to collaborate on virus research.
    Seeing as the government says that it supports the U.S. investigation, will the Canadian government grant access to U.S. investigators to question scientists from the Winnipeg lab as they pursue the origin of the coronavirus?
    Mr. Speaker, the member knows that part of scientific research is open and collaborative research. We also know that we have a strong role to play in protecting Canada from human and cyber actors that pose real threats to Canadian research, to integrity, to intellectual property. While the opposition continues to stoke fear, we will remain focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and supporting the National Microbiology Lab to do its important work in fighting COVID-19 here domestically and internationally as we uncover the science that will lead us forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister would sure like us to stop asking questions about the Winnipeg lab, but the point is, top-secret information from that lab is currently in the hands of the Chinese military. The Prime Minister seems unconcerned, but he has to realize that nobody believes the Chinese People's Liberation Army intends to use that technology for humanitarian purposes.
    Now that the damage has been done, can the Prime Minister confirm that no lab in Canada is currently collaborating with the Chinese military?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, either Conservatives do not understand national security or they do not care. The agency has provided documents in relation to this situation, with redactions to protect confidentiality, of course.
     I encourage the Conservative Party not to use national security and put the national security of Canadians at risk for partisan gain.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we most certainly do understand national security.
    What we understand is that top-secret information was stolen from Canada. That is very clear. Now, as to whether the president of Health Canada has the power and the discretion to hide information about documents, we know he does not. The documents must be handed over to the committee as requested.
    Does the Minister of Health agree with us, yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we will participate, and in fact those documents have been provided to the committee, with redactions to protect confidentiality.
    Let me be clear. I would encourage the Conservative Party not to put the national security of Canadians at risk for partisan gain. Conservatives are playing a dangerous game. The member opposite knows that we have processes and procedures, and indeed committees that are empowered to take a look at these documents.
    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals initially failed to provide these documents, it was actually the member for Cumberland—Colchester, a Liberal MP, who put forward a motion at committee demanding the full disclosure of these documents, and all Liberals, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, voted in favour of it.
    In 2011, Liberals, including the Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister, voted for a motion that declared “the undisputed privileges of Parliament under Canada's constitution, including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested”. That is a direct quote from a Liberal opposition motion that was voted for by the Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister.
    Does the government still believe that Parliament maintains these privileges?
    Mr. Speaker, again, we see the Conservatives trying to stoke fear. Either they do not understand national security or they do not care. It is quite obvious. The agency has provided these documents as requested by the committee, with redactions to protect confidentiality. I encourage the Conservative Party to put the national security of Canadians in the forefront and stop these partisan games.
    Mr. Speaker, that was clearly not an answer. When it comes to national security, holding the government accountable for its failures on national security is what we must do in order to uphold the national security of Canadians.
    When someone affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences is working and gathering information at a top-secret Canadian lab, Canadians have a right to know what happened. They have a right to demand answers. Canadians are concerned about the government's willful blindness and naïveté when it comes to threats to our health and national security.
    When will the government allow Parliament to do its job and recognize the rights and privileges that are founded in our Constitution when it comes to Parliament? When will the Liberals hand over these documents?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have been clear, those documents have been provided to the committee. In fact, the redactions were minimal, to protect the confidentiality of the situation.
    Again, I would encourage the Conservative Party to stay focused on the national security of Canadians and not put it at risk for partisan purposes. We are proud of the critical role that the National Microbiology Laboratory is playing to protect Canadians and, indeed, to partner with researchers around the world to find the tools and the support that we need to get ourselves free of COVID-19 globally.

[Translation]

Airline Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Air Canada's planes have been grounded because of the pandemic, but its senior executives are flying high.
    After receiving $6.5 billion in government assistance, the bosses at Air Canada got greedy and gave themselves $20 million in bonuses using taxpayers' money.
    After laying off 22,000 people and fighting so that they did not have to compensate travellers for cancelled flight tickets, they are now rewarding themselves at our expense.
    Will the government withhold the money meant for Air Canada until these fat cats give back their bonuses?
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian airline industry was hard hit by the pandemic, and we are determined to support the thousands of Canadians who work in that industry.
    The support for Air Canada comes with clear limits on executive compensation. This is an appropriate and necessary measure.
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe the minister thinks that is okay.
    The government is offering Air Canada $5.9 billion on the condition that its senior executives cap their compensation at $1 million a year, which is already quite a lot when the company depends on public funds to survive and when it just put 22,000 families in poverty by dismissing half of its workers.
    Nevertheless, the bosses at Air Canada are giving themselves $20 million in bonuses. They are basically once again thumbing their noses at Canadians.
    Will the government withhold the money from Air Canada until the bonuses are paid back so that Quebeckers do not have to fund one cent of those bonuses?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    I want to note that in negotiating our support for Air Canada, we established clear caps on executive compensation. That is an important and necessary measure.
    I also want to note that Air Canada agreed to a measure to ensure that every worker remains at Air Canada.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in 2015, when the current government was elected, it committed to all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Sections 71 to 76 are very specific about “Missing Children and Burial Information”. Given the horrific discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, will the minister commit to full financial support and other necessary supports for a thorough investigation, not only there but at all former residential schools in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for all her heartfelt agency on this.
     Our thoughts are with the survivors, families and indigenous communities across Canada. The discovery is a reminder of the harms done to residential school attendees and the trauma that survivors and families continue to face every day. We have supported the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to develop the national residential school student death register and create an online registry of residential school cemeteries.
    In budget 2019, we allocated $33.8 million to engage with indigenous communities on how to implement calls to action 74 to 76 and—

  (1440)  

    The hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
    Mr. Speaker, with the tragic news out of Kamloops, it is clear that many indigenous Canadians and residential school survivors are being forced to relive their trauma. As Chief Casimir said, “We see you, we love you and we believe you.” We need to ensure that supports are available as they come to terms with these latest findings, as well as their own truth and trauma.
    In addition to the support hotline, will the minister commit to requested mental health support?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that exceedingly important question. The answer is yes.
    I will take this opportunity, because there is not a single indigenous community that has not been affected by this, to remind people that there is a crisis referral service hotline they can access by dialing 1-866-925-4419.
    I have reached out directly to Chief Casimir and the surrounding communities to ensure that they have the full support of the Government of Canada and Indigenous Services Canada as they go through this difficult, emotional time. We will be there for them. We will be working with the First Nations Health Authority to be there for them, now and for the foreseeable future.

[Translation]

Airline Industry

    Mr. Speaker, in December I specifically asked that the airline assistance plan not include executive compensation. Today we find out that Air Canada paid its executives more than $20 million in bonuses after receiving nearly $6 billion from the government.
    Why was the government unable to negotiate an agreement that left out executive compensation and instead focused on Canadian workers?
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian airline industry was hard hit by the pandemic, and we are determined to support the thousands of Canadians who work in that industry.
    The member is mistaken because the reality is that support for Air Canada comes with clear limits on executive compensation. This is an appropriate and necessary measure.
    Mr. Speaker, I am certain I am not mistaken.

[English]

    The top five executives alone received close to $2 million each, while tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs or went on government programs. I was clear in my demands in December that it was workers who were desperate for help and not executives. Why was the government incapable of negotiating an agreement that excluded executive compensation instead of focusing on Canadian workers?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. The government absolutely believed that limits on executive compensation were a priority in our negotiations with Air Canada. That is why the agreement that we reached with Air Canada includes clear and strict limits on executive compensation. These restrictions will be in place for 12 months after the loans have been repaid. Let me also emphasize that Air Canada has committed to maintain employment at or above April 1 levels.
    It appears there was a problem with the translation.

[Translation]

    Can the Deputy Prime Minister repeat her answer so that everyone can hear it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that our government absolutely agrees that it was necessary and it was a priority to include strict limits on executive compensation, including stock options, in our loan agreement with Air Canada. Those restrictions are there, and they will be in place until 12 months after the loans are repaid.
    I want to emphasize also, since I know everyone in the House cares about workers, that Air Canada has agreed that employment levels will remain at or above April 1 levels.

  (1445)  

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the bodies of 215 precious children were found at a residential school, and indigenous people are asking for justice, not words. However, the government will not stop taking first nations kids to court.
     A human rights tribunal found that the government discriminated against first nations kids. It is now a choice. It is time to make it right. The government cannot have it both ways, offering sympathies for a mass grave while continuing to persecute children in court.
     When will the government make the right choice and stop fighting first nations children?
    Mr. Speaker, now is in fact the time to stand with the communities that are most deeply affected and support them in their time of grieving.
    On the member's question, we have said time and time again that we will compensate first nations children for the discrimination they suffered at the hands of child and family services. We continue on those paths. We continue to work with the three competing court cases to ensure fair compensation to those who have suffered harm.
     We will continue on the long path toward transformative change to ensure that no child is apprehended again.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, Mi'kmaq fishers from the Sipekne'katik First Nation have been abandoned by the government. DFO has decided that they cannot fish now even though this is a clear violation of their treaty rights to earn a moderate livelihood, which is what indigenous fishers are trying to do: earn a living, feed their families and, in some cases, work their way out of poverty.
    They are also afraid of violence from non-indigenous fishers, with good reason. Their property has been burned; they have been threatened and assaulted, and the government has offered no plan to ensure their safety. This is not reconciliation.
    What is the government doing to protect the rights and safety of indigenous fishers?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear that first nations have an absolute right to fish for a moderate livelihood. We have put in place a plan this year that allows them to fish for that moderate livelihood as we work toward long-term agreements. The plan we put in place for this year is flexible, it allows first nations to sell their catch and it ensures they are the ones who develop their fishing plans.
    We will continue to negotiate for longer-term agreements, because we know how important this is to first nations.

International Development

    Mr. Speaker, Palestinian civilians are suffering profound hardship as a result of the recent violence, displacement and loss of life, and have endured unimaginable pain. All human beings are born with equal, unalienable rights. We must all work to uphold them.
     Canadians, including residents of my community, are expressing deep concern over these rights, the urgent need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the West Bank, and unfettered access to provide this assistance.
    Could the Minister of International Development tell the House how Canada will support Palestinians in coping with the effects of this devastating violence and work to build a foundation for lasting peace?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his hard work on this issue.
    The $25 million in funding announced last week is being provided through trusted partners and will ensure that emergency relief quickly reaches Palestinian civilians whose humanitarian needs have only been worsened by this conflict. It will go beyond these urgent and immediate needs to also support recovery and rebuilding efforts. It will support critical peacebuilding and people-to-people initiatives to advance the goal of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

[Translation]

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has among the highest rates in the world for cellular services. The Liberals promised in their campaign to reduce prices by 25% by increasing competition, but two CRTC rulings are at odds with these promises. New telecommunications companies have already decided not to reduce the price of the services they offer.
    Are the Liberals still committed to reducing prices by 25% for all Canadians, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, for whom I have a lot of respect.
    As he knows, we are still working toward offering affordable prices to every Canadian in the country. We are ensuring that there is greater competition in the telecommunications sector and that there is innovation. That is why we always promote competition in order to lower prices, while striving to improve quality and increase coverage of telecommunications services in Canada.
    That is exactly what we have been doing since the beginning of our term and that is what we will continue to do every day.

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, among the new competitors that were planning to enter the market and offer lower prices, some are now announcing that their plans are cancelled.
    Two CRTC rulings have favoured the large telecommunications giants, limited competition and prevented a flourishing free market in the sector. That is not a recipe for lower prices. The Liberals promised a 25% reduction in prices by this coming October. They are not even close to meeting that promise.
    My last question was clear. Again, will every Canadian get a 25% cut in cellphone prices?
    Mr. Speaker, the recipe for success is to be relentless in focusing on affordability, competition, innovation and connectivity across Canada. That is why our government, since day one, has been relentless in promoting competition to lower prices, while working to improve quality and increase the coverage of telecom services in Canada.
     What I do every time I talk to executives in the telecom industry or Internet service providers is ensure they provide affordable services to Canadians. I will continue to do that every step of the way.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, it is Pride Month and still, after many years, we have seen the Liberal government fail to make a permanent refugee program for the LGBTQ+ community. Many members of the community are stoned, hung, assaulted and have many other horrifying acts committed against them just for being who they are.
    When will the government stop the lip service and commit to a permanent program to help LGBTQ refugees?
    Mr. Speaker, for the last three years in a row, Canada has led the world when it comes to resettling refugees. We have worked very closely with the LGBTQ2 community to ensure that members of that community are able to resettle to Canada despite the challenges that have been posed by COVID-19.
     We will continue that work to uphold human rights around the world, and we will do so proudly.
    I want to remind hon. members that when setting up and they know they are either going to ask a question or possibly answer one, to hook up where the ISP is solid so everyone can hear and it does not damage the ears of translators. It is a courtesy of which I want to remind all the members.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. To add insult to injury, there was no French interpretation coming through the headset; it must have gotten lost in the woods.

[English]

    I am going to ask the hon. minister to try answering that again. We did not get the translation because of the quality of the sound. Again, the question is on the transmission quality. I will let him try again.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, for the last three years in a row, Canada has led the world when it comes to resettling refugees [Technical difficulty—Editor]
    I believe we have lost connection. We are going to move on to the next question. The hon. member for Calgary Forest Lawn.
    Mr. Speaker, we hear the same old answers with no action, and let me show how.
    The Liberal government has repeatedly failed to stand up for persecuted refugees. It ran away from standing up to China, which is committing genocide against Uighur Muslims, and shows no action for persecuted Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan. It has created a Liberal-made backlog nightmare, causing further hardship to families and minority groups.
    When will the platitudes end? When will the Liberal government show some fortitude and step up?
    Mr. Speaker, for our government, LGBTQ2 rights are human rights. Whether that is domestically or internationally, Canada will always take a strong position. Our record demonstrates that.
    What is unfortunate is that the member is very bold to ask that question when just yesterday we were debating Bill C-6 in regard to protecting LGBTQ2 rights for Canadians. What are the Conservatives doing? They are holding up that legislation. The Bloc, the NDP and the government are ready to call the question, and the Conservatives are stopping it. Maybe they want to get their act together and take a position, and state that LGBTQ2 rights are in fact human rights.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec wants Bill 101 to apply to federally regulated businesses to make French the language of work. In its white paper of linguistic reform, the federal government says that it plans to use the Official Languages Act to protect French. It is not the same thing. Bill 101 protects French. The Official Languages Act protects bilingualism. Bilingualism is doing just fine. It is French that is struggling.
    Will the government allow Quebec to protect French, or will it override Quebec to protect bilingualism?
    Mr. Speaker, this is not at all about overriding Quebec. On the contrary, we are working with Quebec. That is probably why the Bloc Québécois is so upset. That is probably why it is trying to pick a fight where there is no fight to pick. Quebec determined that French is in decline, and so did the Government of Canada. Now, much to the Bloc Québécois's chagrin, both levels of government are working together to strengthen and promote this language we cherish and love so much.
    Mr. Speaker, for once, Air Canada is not the top source of complaints to the Commissioner of Official Languages. Of course, no one was flying this year.
    I bring this up because Air Canada is subject to the Official Languages Act, but the company still could not care less about French.
    The problem is that the federal government's strategy to protect French is to expand the application of the Official Languages Act to all federally regulated businesses.
    Why does the government not simply tell Quebec to enforce its Bill 101 instead of doing to Quebec workplaces what it did to Air Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the Quebec lieutenant made a similar comment, but the Bloc Québécois is looking to pick a fight. We agree that more protections are needed for the French language.
    The current Liberal government is the first federal government in history to acknowledge that French is a minority language in this country. In our reform, we plan to offer protection for French as the language of work and of service in Quebec and in certain communities across the country with a large francophone population. We will work within our jurisdiction to protect French outside of Quebec and also within Quebec.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, we have learned that two scientists, as well as students, from Communist China gained security clearance, had access to and entered the National Microbiology Laboratory. Even more disturbing is that the federal scientists are collaborating with a Communist government that wants to hurt Canada.
     I know the Prime Minister said he admires China’s basic dictatorship, but my constituents do not. Will the government commit to finally cutting ties with scientists working for China's Communist regime?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what that mishmash is.
    Let me be clear, the National Microbiology Laboratory is a Canadian jewel. It has provided an immense amount of support to Canadians during COVID-19 and, indeed, before. World-renowned science, in collaboration with many other countries, is conducted through the lab and through its partners.
    In terms of national security, clearly the Conservatives are playing a dangerous game. Either they do not understand or they do not care about national security. I would encourage them not to use the security of Canadians, putting the security of Canadians at risk, for partisan gain.
    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have repeatedly tried to get answers for Canadians about how a military scientist from the Communist Chinese regime got access to the Level 4 National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. The government continues to stonewall and refuses to provide answers. Recent polling has shown that over 60% of Canadians have had their trust in the federal government permanently eroded. Anyone watching, as Liberal ministers continue dodging in question period, can quickly see why.
    Canadians deserve a government that they can trust. What is the Liberal government trying to hide?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that this government puts their security, safety and health at the forefront of everything we do. In fact, what Canadians do not appreciate is partisan games with their security. That member opposite knows that we have provided those documents to the committee with minor redactions for the protection of confidentiality. I would encourage the Conservative Party not to put the security of Canadians at risk for partisan gain.

  (1500)  

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, home prices continue to rise beyond the affordability level for many Canadians. In my city of Edmonton, a single-family detached home increased by more than 11% year over year in the month of April. Inflation in this sector is particularly pronounced and on top of that, we have new mortgage rules. The U.S. is doubling tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, yet another factor in increasing the prices on homes.
    When will the Prime Minister take decisive action versus hollow announcements to improve housing affordability in this country, or will he continue to ignore this massive issue?
    Mr. Speaker, we remain firmly committed to tackling the crucial issue of housing affordability in Canada. Our government is focused on ensuring that Canada's residential housing stock is not used unproductively by non-resident, non-Canadian investors. That is why we are proposing an annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian-owned residential real estate that is considered to be vacant or underused.
    On top of that, budget 2021 is our fifth consecutive budget where we are investing more than ever before in affordable housing for Canadians.

[Translation]

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, today is World Milk Day and I would like to thank all our farmers. In Quebec, 11,000 producers on 5,000 farms produce the milk, butter, cream, yogourt and cheese that we are proud of and even the ice cream that I love.
    In 1972, the Trudeau Liberal government put in place the supply management system that protects our Canadian producers.
    Would the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell us about what our government is doing for the dairy sector?
    Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes the importance of Canada's dairy producers, and we keep our promises to them.
    They have already received more than $1 billion in compensation for the agreements signed with the European Union and the trans-Pacific region. They already know what they will receive in 2022 and 2023 and compensation for the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement will follow. We remain committed to protecting the supply management system and not giving up any more market share.
    I wish everyone a happy World Milk Day.
    I would like to remind members that they cannot name members. They can refer to their riding or their title in the House. I just wanted to give a little reminder.
    The hon. member for Beauce.
     Mr. Speaker, today being World Milk Day, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
    Over the past year, the government has finally made some announcements for dairy farmers, but our dairy processors are still waiting. Negotiations on compensation under CUSMA have stalled. Meanwhile, our American counterparts are already disputing the tariff rate quotas.
    What will the minister do to better protect the Canadian dairy sector and the products that cross our borders? When will we see real help for processors?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague that in the last budget, we announced compensation for Canada's dairy, poultry and egg processors. I am also working closely with the Minister of International Trade to follow up with the Canada-Quebec committee. We are confident that we are applying the tariff rate quotas in accordance with the agreement we very carefully negotiated with the United States.
    I want to reassure all milk producers that we have their backs.

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government that chose to create two classes of seniors in Canada also had the bright idea of creating two classes of compensation for damage created by the Phoenix system.
    As a result, retirees who are entitled to compensation for failures in the system will have to wait until after the others to claim their due. The Treasury Board does not have any forms to submit to retirees for compensation because the forms will not be available for a few months.
    One retiree wrote to us saying, “I am still furious since I do not yet know when the money will be paid to me.”
    Why is this government treating these retirees as second-class citizens?

  (1505)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that we are working on behalf of seniors who have worked all their lives. They deserve to have a safe and financially secure retirement. They deserve to be paid their benefits and the payments that they require. We are working very hard to make sure that all seniors receive the payments and the benefits that they are entitled to.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, over this past Victoria Day weekend, there were three people shot in Toronto, four shootings in Ottawa, and one person killed and four wounded in a Mississauga shooting. The Lower Mainland in B.C. has seen increased gang violence, with over 20 killings so far this year. Winnipeg experienced a string of three shootings in just one day, last month.
    The Liberals' soft-on-crime approach has resulted in huge gang-crime increases and gang violence across this entire country. When will the government start working to protect our communities?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member that we promised Canadians we would strengthen gun control, while his party has promised Canadians that it would weaken it.
    We have given the law enforcement agencies across this country $327 million to strengthen their response to gun and gang violence. The member voted against that. We have also brought forward legislation that has identified the three ways in which criminals gain access to guns: smuggling—
    I apologize for the interruption, but there is a problem with translation.
    I will ask the hon. minister to start his answer again.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question the member has asked because it gives me an opportunity to remind him that we have promised Canadians we would strengthen gun control, while, of course, his party has promised the gun lobby that it will weaken it.
    We have also made significant investments of $327 million in law enforcement's ability to do gun and gang investigations, a budget measure that the member voted against.
    We continue to invest in kids and in communities, but we have also brought forward new legislation identifying the ways in which criminals gain access to guns, and strong new measures to deal with the smuggling of guns, the theft of guns and the criminal diversion of guns. We will continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe. I would encourage the member to support those initiatives and support law enforcement's efforts to keep—
    The hon. member for Vimy.

[Translation]

Families, Children and Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, the pandemic has affected many Canadians, including young families. My constituents have had to balance work and family, which has resulted in many additional expenses.
    Can the Minister of National Revenue tell the House what our government is doing to support families with young children during this difficult time?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vimy for her important question.
    Many families have experienced financial difficulties during this pandemic. This is why we announced a Canada child benefit supplement of up to $1,200 per child under the age of six.
    Last Friday, the first payment was issued directly to parents. This measure will help 1.6 million families. The Canada child benefit gives nine out of 10 families more tax-free income. This benefit is indexed to inflation and has helped lift 435,000 children out of poverty since 2015.
    My message to families is clear: We will always be there to support you.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, this week is Environment Week in Canada. My question to the Prime Minister is this. Would it not be a wonderful thing if, during Environment Week, the environment committee strengthened Bill C-12, the so-called net-zero climate accountability act?
    Specifically, one of my amendments has been rejected, and I would be so grateful to know from the Prime Minister why the government does not want the climate targets and climate plans to be based on the best available science. Right now the bill says the best available science must be merely taken into account. Surely we would not just take it into account when we look at COVID. We base our decisions on science.

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, I wish the member a happy Environment Week.
    The best available science tells us that we must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and certainly we are committed to meeting that target. With this legislation, we are enshrining that commitment into law.
    We will be further strengthening this bill to include a number of amendments, including a 2025 review of our 2030 target and an interim emissions reduction objective for 2026, and enshrining the principle of progression of future targets. This legislation is very much a win for Canadians, who expect their parliamentarians to have a real plan to fight climate change and to build a clean growth economy.

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion.
    I move:
    That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), be disposed of as follows:
a) The bill be deemed concurred in on division at report stage; and
b) following Private Members' Hour on Thursday, June 3, 2021, the bill shall be considered at the third reading, a member of each recognized party and a member of the Green Party each speak for not more than 10 minutes followed by five minutes for questions and comments and, at the conclusion of the time provided for debate or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, the bill be deemed read a third time and passed on division, and that the House then proceed to Adjournment Proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 38.
    All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay. It is agreed.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I believe that after I asked my question about supply management earlier, you intervened and said that I had mentioned the name of a sitting member of Parliament, but I was referring to Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1972. I would ask you to make any corrections necessary.
    Thank you very much. I apologize, because that was not my intention. I do thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind everyone of the rules.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
    Mr. Speaker, I also rise on a point of order.
    I would like to start by pointing out that the current Prime Minister was exactly six months old at the time the member for Châteauguay—Lacolle was referring to when she talked about his father.

[English]

    We all recognize that we are at the beginning of June and in the last stretch of this session. We all recognize there are some serious and concerning issues for each and every Canadian that we have to debate in the House of Commons.

[Translation]

    The House is currently meeting in a hybrid format because of the pandemic. When we accepted the procedural rules of the pandemic, we did so in good faith to ensure the health and safety of parliamentarians and of everyone we work with here in the House, in the buildings around Parliament Hill and in our ridings.

[English]

    This provision is very serious, and we shall respect it based on the health of the people.

[Translation]

    Just because the House is meeting in a hybrid format does not mean members, let alone ministers, can sit outdoors. Oral question period is a serious affair. It is inappropriate to see a minister sitting outside in a forest, even in a hybrid sitting of the House. That is our opinion.

[English]

    More than that, I have to raise the point that during question period, for a full 10 minutes no Liberal members were in the House of Commons.

[Translation]

    It is totally unacceptable that for 10 minutes during question period, not a single Liberal parliamentarian was sitting in this House—
    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I must remind him that he cannot say whether members are present in the House or draw attention to their absence. I know the hon. member is already aware of this rule, but I will take this opportunity to remind all hon. members.
    While I am at it, before I move on to the next point of order, I would ask all hon. members who are going to ask or answer questions to set up in a neutral location where the connection is good and they can be heard clearly. This will ensure that their colleagues who are interested in what they have to say are able to hear them. It also allows the interpreters to hear them and interpret what they are saying, so that those who do not speak the same language can understand what is being said.

  (1515)  

[English]

    The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, it is on the same point of order. Notwithstanding that we are not supposed to reference the presence of members in the House, I suggest that indeed many members from the Liberal Party were in the House. They are participating virtually. This goes to the rules we adopted. They specifically say that members can be—
    I am going to stop this right now. I am not sure I want to continue this argument, because we are not supposed to be referring to anyone in the chamber. Also, the fact that we are discussing it means it becomes a debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to say that they are in the chamber—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    We want to make sure that everything is clear. Referring to someone's presence in the chamber, whether it is an absence or presence, is not allowed, and that rule has gone on for a long time. The main reason for it is that during sessions, MPs have obligations that sometimes take them out of the chamber and it is impossible for them to be here. I am sure we do not want to insult anybody or hurt anyone's work. I am sure they are doing work on behalf of the government, no matter where they are.
    The hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I am looking for some clarification. I have always been aware that we cannot speak of the presence or absence of a specific member, but I did not think that this extended to empty benches. I guess you are saying that it does extend to empty benches.
    I also want to remind the hon. members that we cannot do indirectly what we cannot do directly. I thank the member for her intervention, but members are in the House, according to the convention, because they are joining us virtually.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
    Mr. Speaker, you were right to call me to order. I will be more careful next time.
    You mentioned earlier in response to our colleague from Kingston and the Islands that we were having connection problems and that the connection was not good. Technically, the connection is working fine here in the House of Commons.
    Again, I must remind the House that we cannot do indirectly what we cannot do directly.

[English]

    The hon. Minister of Justice is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like a clarification regarding the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. When he asked a question during question period, I believe he used a prop, a milk carton, in delivering his question.

[Translation]

    Does the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord wish to respond to what was said about his point of order?

[English]

    I am afraid he has left already, but I—
    An hon. member: Mr. Speaker, you cannot refer to the presence of a member.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: I am sorry; the member is right. I will resign. I am thankful for the reminder. Even the Speaker makes errors. That is why I am very conciliatory when people make mistakes.
    There was an issue and a prop may have been used. I want to remind hon. members that using a prop in the chamber is not allowed, and that the minute a member's camera goes on they are in the chamber.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1520)  

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Documents Related to the Transfer of Ebola and Henipah Viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology 

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, before question period, I was talking about the politicization of the lab in Winnipeg by the Conservative Party, and alternatives that the Conservatives could have used with respect to what they put forward in their opposition motion.
    I would like to expand on that, but first it is important that I emphasize three points.
    First, Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory is in fact a secure facility. Everyone working at or visiting the National Microbiology Laboratory must undergo a security screening and adhere to strict security protocols, procedures and policies. That is a very important message as we talk about the lab, which I am very familiar with because of its location on Arlington. It is just outside of my riding of Winnipeg North, and I see the outside of it quite a bit.
    With respect to the other two points, Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory plays a critical role in protecting the health and safety of Canadians, and the government is very much aware of that. It is also important to recognize that collaboration takes place among laboratories outside of Canada, which is critical to advancing public health research and science that is aimed at improving public health on a global scale, including research into infectious diseases, and I will start with that as background.
    We need to realize that the Government of Canada does not in any way underestimate the importance of the lab. If we were to review question period in tomorrow's Hansard, the Prime Minister was very clear on the issue, and it goes back to what I was saying earlier today.
    For years, while the Liberals were in opposition to the Stephen Harper government, we argued that there needed to be a mechanism in place to protect Canada's national interests when it came to security. I spoke in the chamber on many occasions back in those days about Five Eyes partners having intelligence committees except for Canada. When the Prime Minister was leader of the third party in the House of Commons, he also advocated that we needed to establish a security committee. Lo and behold, and no one should be surprised, within months of being elected, we had already put into place a process that ultimately led to the creation of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Like our other Five Eyes partners, Canada had an intelligence committee.
    Members of that committee, and this has been demonstrated over the last number of years, can do a lot of fine work for Canadians in protecting the national interests. We have already seen at least one report. The type of work it does is in the best interest of Canadians. It is a way to ensure that there is a certain level of transparency, even on delicate issues where confidentiality needs to be respected.

  (1525)  

    I was very disappointed in my Conservative friends across the way. I asked whether they had consulted or asked the National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to look into the matter. They seemed to want to throw it to the wayside, that it did not matter. They said that the special committee on China had to deal with it. In fact, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan had the audacity to stand and say that they could still do this, that they did not have to be completely reliant.
     This is where it gets into what the Prime Minister indicated in question period, and that is that the Conservative leader would not hesitate at all to try to score political points, partisanship, even on the issue of national security.
    If we go beyond the leader's round to when the Minister of Health spoke, she indicated very clearly to all members that the information being requested, at least in good part if not in whole, had been provided to the committee. The committee has the information.
    This is the problem. From the Conservatives' point of view, they do not like the fact that certain parts have been redacted. Redactions occur because there is a need to protect issues surrounding confidentiality and personal issues. That is why if the Conservative Party were really more interested in national security, it would allow the National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to deal with it. However, that is not the real agenda of the Conservative Party of Canada.
    The Conservative Party and its leader want to play politics with this issue. At a time when Canadians are concerned with the pandemic, are concerned about getting shots in their arms and the vaccine doses, the Conservative Party is more concerned about partisan politics. They want to see more information and call ministers before a committee. That is fine. I have always been an advocate of standing committees. They are creatures of their own and they will decide what they decide. There is a very strong element of independence to those committees.
     I look back to Conservative tactics last summer. I would remind members of the House that literally thousands and thousands of pages were provided to a committee. One would think the Conservative Party believes there is an unlimited amount of personnel and resources to meet its every whim in trying to uncover an issue that it can call a scandal. The Conservatives continue to push that button, especially in the last few months.

  (1530)  

    The government, led by a Prime Minister, is committed to being there for Canadians day in and day out, seven days a week, with a single focus on battling the pandemic. We will continue to make that a priority of this government and Liberal members of Parliament. Whether physically in the House or in their constituencies, where a vast majority of our Liberal members are because of the virtual Parliament situation, members are able to gauge what their constituents are telling them and can funnel that information back to where decisions are made.
    When I look at the motion before us today and what it asks the government to do, I believe the Conservatives are somewhat misguided. I can only hope that other opposition parties will see that and not vote in favour of it.
    We could have been talking about many things. Let us think about the remains of the children found buried last week in Kamloops. Let us think of the pandemic and the number of cases in some of our provinces, including my home province of Manitoba. Lets think about the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent and are proposed in the budget to be spent in the coming months. I would suggest the opposition could talk about these issues on opposition days.
    The official opposition is trying to force its way on a special standing committee to compel the government to do something when, for all intents and purposes, it is just not needed. There are other venues in which this can be done. I would remind members, in particular members of the Bloc, the Green Party and the NDP, that information has been provided to the committee, albeit redacted for a good reason.
    I ask them not to buy into the Conservative agenda, a partisan agenda, but to stay focused on what Canadians want the House of Commons to be focused on. There are many other things we should be spending the rare time we have to debate in the House of Commons—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot.
    Madam Speaker, quite frankly, I am astounded that the member opposite would suggest that it is somehow partisan posturing to demand accountability of the government. It seems that he has forgotten the very basis of the parliamentary system in which we are all a part, which is that government is a function of Parliament, not the other way around, not simply an inconvenience.
    Specifically to a comment that the member made during his speech, I would suggest that maybe he has not read the NSICOP Act, the act that empowers the NSICOP to do its work. It does not allow for parliamentarians or MPs to make a request for it to study things. I wonder if the member would like to correct the record regarding his comments on the NSICOP.
    Madam Speaker, the member has a point, but parliamentarians from all political caucuses sit on that committee, which is an appropriate thing. Nothing at all prevents members of the committee, whether the Prime Minister, the leader of the official opposition or any member of the House of Commons, from talking about it in hopes that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians will accept this as a serious issue and do the fine work that it has been able to demonstrate very clearly over the last couple of years. I would not underestimate the potential of this committee.
     I realize the Conservative Party did not support the need for a committee of this nature while it was in government, but for confidentiality and security purposes—

  (1535)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague takes issue with certain parties scoring political points at the expense of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. I would like to remind him that reports published by the national media clearly show how naive the Liberal government is.
    According to those reports, members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army have access to our supposedly high-security facilities. What does he have to say about that?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I do not take, as much as possible, anything for granted. I realize there are unique and special relationships with countries around the world and between that country and Canada. At the end of the day, that has to be taken into consideration for a multitude of countries. I do not make any assumptions. I believe we have ministries that do their job and protect the national interests of Canada, depending on which country it happens to be, the issues of the day and so forth, and I have the confidence that it is being done properly.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague. I would rather be spending today talking about indigenous issues and the government's failure to take action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action or supports for small businesses in the pandemic. Instead, we are talking about this motion because the government failed to be transparent on public health issues by not releasing documents that were requested by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations in March, and again in May, with all-party agreement that the committee has a constitutional right to access these documents.
    Does my colleague not agree that being transparent and releasing these public health documents would be the most effective way to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories? How is it that the government has not found a way to work with the Public Health Agency to find a resolution that respects the constitutional rights of parliamentarians?
    Madam Speaker, just because we have this unholy alliance of opposition parties saying there is no transparency, that does not mean there is no transparency. This government has demonstrated transparency even prior to the Prime Minister being Prime Minister of Canada, through proactive disclosure, where we had to bring the NDP kicking and screaming. I could speak on this endlessly, but suffice it to say that the member is wrong in this assertion.
    There have been documents that have been requested, fulfilled and provided to the committee, albeit redacted. Is the member trying to say that we should not be providing redacted documents and there is nothing confidential, that we should just provide the whole document and should not care about national security and national interest? I think the NDP is being hoodwinked once again in terms of supporting this motion. I hope I am wrong.
    Madam Speaker, earlier and throughout the debate we heard calls to action from the other side of the House to not be political and to be open and transparent, that this has nothing to do with politics and is about just being open and transparent.
    Meanwhile, and I am not sure if the member caught it earlier, the member for New Brunswick Southwest actually suggested that the member from Pickering, the parliamentary secretary, might be working for the Chinese government. Here we are, talking about not wanting to be overly partisan and political; meanwhile, we get accusations like that coming from Conservatives.
    I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary can weigh in with his thoughts on that.

  (1540)  

    Madam Speaker, not too much could be said inside the House that would surprise me. On this particular issue, the issue of transparency and China, the biggest thing I would point out to those who might be following the debate is that whenever Conservatives use the word “transparency”, one should reflect back to a number of years ago when Stephen Harper actually negotiated a trade agreement of sorts with China and did not tell anyone about it. It never came back for any sort of approval.
    I know the former leader of the Green Party would be able to talk at great length on that particular issue. We do not need to take any lessons from the Conservative Party on the issue of transparency when it comes to China.
    Madam Speaker, the member has spoken about NSICOP and he is clearly way off base in terms of the way NSICOP works. He asked why we could not ask it to study this. NSICOP could not answer the question and could not tell us if it was studying it. It could not disclose any information about the study without the permission of the government. The government could also prevent NSICOP from studying it if it wished.
    I want to quote directly the words of Ms. Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner who testified about the bill that created NSICOP. She said:
...clause 8(b) of the bill undercuts this mandate by providing that the minister of a department may override a review where the minister determines it would be injurious to national security.
    This override essentially turns the committee's broad mandate into a mirage. It will undermine any goodwill and public trust that may have built up towards the committee and, by extension, the national security agencies it oversees.
    The Information Commissioner said that the government can shut down a study of NSICOP any time it thinks it is convenient and we would never know about it. That is why the work of parliamentary committees, completely different from committees of Parliament created by legislation, is so important.
    Does the member understand what NSICOP is and recognize that parliamentary committees still have an important job to do?
    Madam Speaker, I understand the importance of this committee. After all, when we were in opposition, I was part of a Liberal caucus advocating that we have such a committee, while the member's own caucus at the time, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, said they did not want a committee like this.
    Am I surprised that the Conservatives today do not have confidence in the committee? I think they should have more confidence in their members on the committee and understand and appreciate the vital role they could play on this issue. I disagree with the member and the leader of the official opposition. I do not believe we should be playing partisan politics on the important issue of national security, especially during a pandemic.
    Madam Speaker, since the hon. parliamentary secretary has given me the opening to mention what happened with the Canada-China foreign investment protection act, I will say that it was never debated in Parliament. It was approved by cabinet as a Governor in Council approval for a treaty, and the treaty allows foreign corporations from the People's Republic of China to bring financial challenges against Canada for any decision of our government that they do not like.
     This is just to bring it full circle to the parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, it was the member who just spoke who educated me a bit more about it, and that is the reason I figured I should attribute it to her. It was a sneaky thing, and that is why I say that when it comes to transparency the Conservatives are not the party to try to emulate.
    Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam this afternoon.
    Like other members of this House and hundreds of thousands of Canadians, I have had the pleasure and privilege of living in Hong Kong. I was fortunate enough to be on hand for the territory's handover from Britain to the People's Republic of China on July 1, 1997. It was a heavy moment, with feelings of both apprehension and opportunity.
    I visited Asia frequently after returning to Canada a year later, and I have fond memories of both rural and urban China, Hong Kong and remote Tibet. Today, I would not travel to any part of mainland China for any reason. This saddens me, because I have a deep affection for the Chinese people. One cannot travel for weeks at a time and leave untouched by their hospitality, fondness for family, tradition and cuisine. As well, I admire China's culture and long history of struggle, perseverance and accomplishments. However, travel today in the Middle Kingdom is risky, because the PRC's governing system is not subject to oversight, nor the rule of law. Instead, it is arbitrary and dangerous.
    As of Friday last week, May 28 to be exact, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been illegally detained by the Chinese Communist Party for over 900 days. This is a disgrace. We have witnessed how Beijing has increasingly revealed itself to be at odds with international law, accountability and openness, as well as the rights of people, including China's own citizens.
    Beijing, instead, is devoted to control and secrecy, at home and abroad. Its ruling politburo believes its opaque and autocratic institution offers its country superior economic and social outcomes compared to nations that govern themselves democratically, like ours. Certainly, too many Sinophiles, otherwise committed to democracy in their home countries, are tempted to agree, but I do not. Totalitarian nations can make societal advances, but to sustain them requires ingenuity and human freedom. These flourish when people are free and govern themselves as free people.
    At the core of today's motion is Canada's long-standing commitment to accountable government. It appears to me, from the filibuster speeches made today by some Liberal MPs, that the government bench might well oppose this accountability motion. I should not need to remind government MPs that under our system, the federal government is accountable to Parliament, and Parliament is accountable to Canadians.
    My hon. colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, earlier today made the compelling case that the Liberal mismanagement of Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory failed to protect Canada's national security and the safety of Canadians. We know that Canadian scientists worked at the Winnipeg lab with mainland Chinese scientists, including military scientists, on some of the world's deadliest viruses and pathogens. We know that the RCMP escorted NML employees out of the facility, and those two employees were terminated. Later, other senior staff resigned, suddenly and without explanation.
    Does this not beg for answers? It does, which is why every MP on the special parliamentary committee examining Canada's relationship with mainland China voted, twice, for answers, by summoning the production of unredacted documents produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada concerning the transfer of deadly viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2019 and the subsequent revocation of security clearances for, and termination of, two employees.
    PHAC has stonewalled Parliament, twice. Canadians, through their elected representatives, have a responsibility to scrutinize the federal government and find answers.
    I wish to reinforce my position today by highlighting Speaker Milliken's ruling in 2010. Speaker Milliken confirmed that parliamentary committees, through this House of Commons, have unfettered constitutional power to send for persons and papers, a power greater than ordinary statute law, through parliamentary privilege. This fact is confirmed in section 18 of the Constitution and subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act. It has been confirmed by our Supreme Court. It has been confirmed again by the House law clerk. Most recently, it has been confirmed, twice, by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, on which I sit.

  (1545)  

    Today we are debating an egregious affront to the will of Parliament: Documents requested by a parliamentary committee are not being released to Parliament. It is a deliberate act infringing on the supremacy of Parliament, and it sets a precedent that could weaken our institutions if it goes unanswered. To put it in a different context, officials who report directly to the health minister are knowingly withholding pertinent information on a study regarding national security: specifically, how scientists with deep connections to the Chinese military were able to gain access to a Canadian high-level security-cleared laboratory with the world's most dangerous viruses.
    We should consider some of the following information discovered through other channels. The member for Cloverdale—Langley City, on her Order Paper question from last year about the National Microbiology Laboratory, asked: “What is the reason that officials from the laboratory wrote on March 28, 2019, that they were really hoping that the transferred viruses go through Vancouver instead of Toronto, and fingers crossed?” The government's reply was, “These comments relate to the administrative process associated with transit through Toronto. The process for shipment through Vancouver is simpler.”
    Why is that? Should security not be identical at any of Canada's borders? Why would health officials hope for loopholes when dealing with viruses and pathogens?
    The member for Cloverdale—Langley City asked about the lab's inner workings on the same Order Paper question concerning a September 14, 2018, email from Matthew Gilmour, the lab's former senior official. She asked: “Are there materials that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has that we would benefit from receiving?” The government's reply was, “There have been no requests from the National Microbiology Laboratory for materials from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
    Exactly what was the relationship between the two labs, and was it strictly one-way?
    I highlight these questions today for the record because they demand further explanation, and because each of the responses received from the Order Paper questions was more revealing than the documents released by PHAC under order of a parliamentary committee. The question that remains is this: What is the federal government hiding? Is it bureaucratic incompetence, a gross security error, being duped by Beijing or some sort of malfeasance? Could it be how a foreign government scientist with direct ties to a foreign military received secret clearance to work at one of the most secure facilities in Canada?
    Does the government not want to disclose more ill-advised partnerships that failed to protect sensitive information from being accessed by hostile foreign agents? Have there been additional instances of wilful ignorance concerning partnerships on sensitive technologies with counterparts in China, causing research to be delivered to the Chinese military? Why is a government that was elected in 2015, and that promised to be the most open and transparent in Canadian history, ignoring a lawful request by Parliament?
    It appears to me this is a case of Canadian officials ignoring our national security and bending over backwards to collaborate in a partnership with the Chinese military. Now those same officials are citing national security, or even privacy concerns, as justification for not disclosing important details to Parliament. They certainly earn points for moxie, but is it a cover-up? That shall be revealed by the Liberal government's next few moves in the House. We know now how easily our most secure institutions have been compromised by the Prime Minister. Canadians should be informed of the toll of that security lapse to our collective safety and security.

  (1550)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the official opposition's motion.
    However, we are somewhat concerned about the section that would give committee members the power to decide whether any of the redacted information should be made public. We think that is a problem and would set a dangerous precedent.
    Can my colleague reassure us in that regard?

  (1555)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    Under the motion that we moved today, the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations would take steps to make absolutely sure that only information that does not jeopardize our national security is shared with the public.
    Until now, we have asked the clerk of the committee to verify what is sent over. In the future, committee members would have a discussion to ensure that Canada's interests are protected.

[English]