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.
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.