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e-4401 (Health)

Initiated by Sonya Anderson from Barrie, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Parliament has neither discussed nor debated Canada’s participation in a proposed World Health Organization (WHO) International Treaty on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Treaty) that is currently being negotiated and due to be signed by May 2024;
  • In parallel to the Pandemic Treaty drafting process, hundreds of amendments have been proposed by 16 member states to the International Health Regulations (IHRs), which govern the conduct of countries and provide the legal framework for the WHO to exercise its powers;
  • Parliament has neither discussed nor debated the amendments to 5 Articles of the IHR that were adopted by the 75th World Health Assembly on May 27, 2022 and states have 18 months to opt out of these amendments;
  • The outcomes of these efforts will give legally binding, “emergency” powers to the WHO, with potential far-reaching impacts on the lives, health and human rights of Canadians; and
  • Canada must be careful not to agree to anything that could give away our sovereignty on health care, even if there is tremendous international pressure to do so for the sake of pandemic preparedness.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to urgently allow Parliament the opportunity to debate and vote on the amendments to the IHRs that have already been adopted by the 75th World Health Assembly and to allow opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the proposed amendments currently being negotiated by WHO delegates.

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Minister Mark Holland

Protecting the health and safety of all Canadians is a top priority of the Government of Canada. COVID-19 has demonstrated the need to take bold action to ensure we are better prepared for the next pandemic, which is why Canada is working closely with other countries and international partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Canada is working with over 190 other countries to develop a new WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

Canada is a signatory to the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005), which are an important tool to keep Canadians healthy and safe through commitments and obligations that require countries to work together in a global health emergency. At the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022, Member States adopted a technical amendment to Article 59 that would change the time for entry into force of future IHR amendments from two years to one year. This means that the IHR amendments adopted in 2022 make it so that in the future, States Parties will have one year to accept and implement any new amendments to the IHR. This amendment was agreed to by all States Parties and supports effective implementation of the IHRs and protection against future public health risks. To ensure consistency within the text, four other amendments were made to support this same technical change. No other amendments were agreed to or adopted at the 75th World Health Assembly in 2022.

Also at the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022, Member States, including Canada, agreed by consensus on a forward process to consider possible amendments to the IHR (2005) through the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (WGIHR), which is led by Member States. Now, Member States are undertaking the process to consider additional amendments to strengthen the IHR. Member States themselves are leading the process and deciding on the content. As the starting point for this process, Member States were invited to submit amendment proposals. Proposed amendments are still under negotiation and none have been finalized or agreed upon.

While the outcomes of these efforts are not yet determined, Canada is ensuring that our sovereignty is maintained through any amendments to the IHR. Canada has full jurisdiction for any future domestic decisions about national restrictions or other measures related to health emergencies and pandemics. The role of WHO has been and will continue to be advisory in nature, as WHO does not have jurisdiction in Canada. WHO Member States will continue to lead the process of negotiating amendments to the IHR (2005) and, as Canada engages in it, the federal government will ensure that Canadian priorities and values are upheld. It is expected that amendments to the IHR (2005) will be presented for consideration and potential adoption at the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024.

More information about this process can be found at the website for the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations.

Open for signature
April 20, 2023, at 3:33 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
May 20, 2023, at 3:33 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
September 26, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01659)
Government response tabled
November 9, 2023
Photo - Leslyn Lewis
Conservative Caucus