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EDITORIAL: PM defying House of Commons

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What information is the Trudeau government so desperate to hide about the firing of two scientists from Winnipeg’s highest security virus lab, that it’s taking the House of Commons, including Speaker Anthony Rota — a Liberal MP — to court to block its release?

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Rota told MPs “we will fight tooth and nail” in court to protect the principle “that the legal system does not have jurisdiction over the operations of the House. We are our own (court).”

House of Commons law clerk Philippe Dufresne said “to his knowledge” the Trudeau government’s move is unprecedented.

It has applied in federal court — in defiance of orders from the House of Commons— to prevent the release of uncensored documents held by the Public Health Agency of Canada about the firings, claiming it would be “injurious to international relations or national defence or national security.”

Logically, this means the government is claiming that in addition to security issues, it could damage relations with China.

The controversy centres around why scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, lost their security clearances and were removed from Winnipeg’s Level 4 National Microbiology Lab in July 2019, amid an RCMP investigation into a possible “policy breach.”

They were eventually fired in January 2020.

The opposition parties, through the House of Commons, also want to see uncensored documents regarding the transfer of Ebola and Henipah viruses to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in March, 2019, presided over by Qiu.

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PHAC head Iain Stewart, ordered to appear before the House of Commons and reprimanded by Rota for defying the order to release the uncensored documents, has said the firings had nothing to do with the virus transfers to the Wuhan lab, or with COVID-19.

He said he was bound by law not to release the information ordered by the House of Commons.

(A number of experts now believe the origin of COVID-19 may have been an accidental release from the Wuhan lab.)

The government has offered to release uncensored documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians but the opposition parties say it’s controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office and that their motion provides for the documents to be vetted by the law clerk to prevent the release of information endangering national security.

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