Madam Speaker, on June 2, the House of Commons issued an order for unredacted documents that pertain to the transfer of viruses from the National Microbiology Lab to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in March of 2019, and the departure of two National Microbiology Lab scientists. As we know, the government is responsible for protecting certain sensitive information that may include safeguards, for example, around personal information and privacy, or information that could pertain to national security.
The government has actually tried to comply with the intent of the order while, at the same time, respecting the law that is on the books and ensuring that security-related information and privacy are, in fact, properly safeguarded. This matter was referred to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians for its review on June 4 and the Public Health Agency of Canada has, in fact, provided to that committee the unredacted documents as was requested by Parliament.
I will take a minute to outline, on behalf of the government, how it arrived at this particular decision. I will start with a couple of words about the National Microbiology Lab. This is a lab that provides critical scientific leadership for Canada's response to COVID-19. As we speak, that laboratory is conducting more than 100 research studies on COVID-19 that range from designing and testing vaccines, to investigating treatments, to understanding the genetic fingerprint of the virus. A very important part of that lab's work is international collaboration. Throughout the pandemic, the laboratory has worked with both domestic and international partners to combat the disease.
As the government has outlined on a few occasions, the two former employees named in the order are no longer working for the Public Health Agency of Canada. As well, as was noted on multiple occasions, there is no connection between the transfer of the virus as cited in the order and the subsequent departure of these employees. There is also no link to COVID-19. Though additional information was redacted to protect privacy and for security reasons, the government wants to outline that the National Microbiology Lab continues to play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
The government is seeking to be open and transparent, but it is important to highlight that there is a balance to be struck to ensure that very sensitive information can, in fact, be protected. Twice the Public Health Agency appeared before the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations to respond to the questions on this matter. In addition, the agency has promptly responded to all requests for information, again while respecting its obligations under the laws that were, in fact, passed by Parliament. Sharing the relevant information is, indeed, a balancing act, one that requires us to consider various laws, duties and the public interest.
The government is and will remain committed to being as responsive as possible to parliamentarians and to Canadians.