N.B. MP named to investigate secret firing of two scientists | Telegraph Journal
New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson has been named to a special committee investigating the firing of two scientists from Canada’s top infectious disease laboratory.
Adam Huras – Parliament Hill, Ottawa – A New Brunswick MP has been named to a special committee investigating the firing of two scientists from Canada’s top infectious disease laboratory.
It will see John Williamson and three other MPs receive unfettered access to all national security documents related to the firing of Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg now over four years ago.
Exactly why the two were fired remains a contentious issue with the government saying little about the reasons they were let go.
The Public Health Agency of Canada referred the matter to the RCMP in July 2019 after escorting the couple out of the lab.
Reporting by the National Post and others then revealed Qiu’s close connections to China and a lab that would later become embroiled in controversy over the origins of COVID-19.
“I will be pushing for as much transparency as possible because there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about what went on at the laboratory in Winnipeg touching on national security issues and bringing Beijing right back into the picture,” Williamson said in an interview. “There are questions about why two scientists were fired, why scientist from the People’s Republic of China had access to the lab and some of the world’s most dangerous viruses.
“There are many others that we need answers on.”
Williamson was previously selected to sit on a special Canada-China Relations Committee essentially mandated to reevaluate all aspects of Canada’s relationship with China, and has been a long-standing critic of the communist regime.
The New Brunswick Southwest MP also previously lived in Hong Kong in the late 1990s.
He then covered the 2000 Taiwanese election from Taipei for the National Post.
Qiu was an esteemed infectious-disease researcher who won a Governor General’s innovation award for her work on an Ebola treatment, while Cheng was a biologist who worked in her lab.
The special committee of MPs is now slated to receive documents from the Public Health Agency of Canada on why the husband-wife pair in Winnipeg was dismissed.
It includes just one MP from each of the four major parties.
Williamson is the Conservative representative.
He has already gone through a security screening process and will have a meeting in June on next steps.
“At this point, my understanding is that this is about documents that will be released to the public, some in their entirety, some redacted, and possibly some not at all,” he said.
Williamson must sign an oath of secrecy and will be required to view the classified documents at a secure facility.
The federal government has also named three former judges to help oversee the special committee.
The government had fought furiously to prevent the records’ release, but finally agreed, amid opposition pressure, to set up the committee with a panel of judges deciding which documents can be handed over.
More than 250 pages of records have been withheld in their entirety from MPs, and hundreds of others have been partly censored.
The government had warned that their release could jeopardize national security.
“The ad hoc committee was proposed by the government so that Members of Parliament can have, in a secure setting, full access to related redacted an unredacted documents,” Liberal House Leader Mark Holland said in a statement. “They will receive briefings from officials on the reasons for protecting certain information from disclosure.
“The documents from the Public Health Agency of Canada pertain to the transfer of viruses and the termination of employment of two staff members.”
The National Post has previously reported that Qiu collaborated with Chinese government scientists on inventions patented in Beijing, but closely related to her job in the lab, even though federal civil servants are not allowed to file such patents.
The national microbiology lab is a secure facility that conducts research on some of the world’s most dangerous viruses, including Ebola and Tuberculosis.
The Post has also reported that Qiu’s firing was allegedly linked to the unauthorized shipment of Ebola and Henipavirus samples to Wuhan lab in March 2019.
In the still-unresolved debate over the origins of COVID, some scientists and U.S. government agencies have said they suspect it may have “leaked” through an infected employee form the Wuhan lab.
The virus emerged, though, several months after Qiu and Cheng were removed from the Winnipeg facility, and there has been no indication of any link between them and the pandemic.
“I think we have to see where the evidence takes us,” Williamson said. “We know that one of the scientists shipped the Ebola and Henipavirus to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, so there is already a connection there, it’s not one we’re searching for, it’s already there.
“It’s believed that scientists from the Winnipeg lab were working in the Wuhan Institute to bring it up to a Level 4 lab. What are those connections? We just don’t know and we’re trying to understand the relationship between officials from mainland China and what actually happened at the Winnipeg lab.”
Originally published by Adam Huras on May 24 in New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal newspaper.
John Williamson is Conservative MP for New Brunswick Southwest and chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.