Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday April 14, 2020. Scheer says he has serious concerns about the accuracy of the World Health Organization’s data and its relationship with China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Scheer, Conservatives raise concerns about WHO data, relationship with China

Conservatives say Taiwan’s efforts to control COVID-19 are being completely disregarded by the WHO

The Conservative opposition raised broad concerns Tuesday about Canadian government’s reliance on the World Health Organization, questioning the accuracy of its data and its relationship with China during the COVID-19 crisis.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he had “serious concerns” about the WHO during a press conference on Parliament Hill after returning from his Saskatchewan riding.

Scheer expressed disappointment that Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist who headed a WHO mission in China earlier this year, was dropped from the witness list for a House of Commons health committee meeting on Tuesday.

The concern was echoed by Conservative committee member Matt Jeneroux, an Edmonton MP, who unleashed a blistering criticism of Aylward during the committee’s videoconference meeting, saying his no-show was disappointing and unacceptable.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski said he shared Jeneroux’s concerns during the two-hour-plus video meeting, which featured the testimony of federal officials from several government departments.

READ MORE: Canadians must still wait weeks to see if COVID-19 rules can be loosened

The officials from the departments of agriculture, industry, immigration and employment and social development were answering questions about Monday’s federal announcement that it would provide $50 million to subsidize the mandatory 14-day quarantine of temporary agricultural workers from Mexico, Guatemala and Jamaica.

While there were tough questions for the government officials, there was no shortage of ire directed at Aylward, whose name appeared Monday on the committee’s witness list— until it disappeared.

“I’m disappointed that World Health Organization officials have declined the invitation from the House of Commons health committee to testify,” Scheer said before the meeting.

“We have very serious concerns. Many concerns have been raised about the accuracy of the World Health Organization’s data, the influence that China has on the World Health Organization.”

Scheer said the government is basing its decisions on fighting the COVID-19 outbreak on information from the WHO, so it needs to hear how those decisions are being made.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, defended Canada’s relationship with the WHO at a daily briefing.

Freeland said Canada must co-operate with multilateral institutions to combat a global pandemic and that the WHO is the “international body” that does that.

“We also collaborate closely with other allies in other fora,” Freeland said.

That includes Hajdu’s recent meetings last week with G7 health ministers, she noted. “That’s an important forum for us, and so is partnership with our allies around the world,” said Freeland.

China is not a member of the G7, which is composed of the world’s largest economies that are democracies.

Hajdu said Tam and other health officials have testified at length before the Commons health committee and will continue to do so in the future.

“This is an actual health crisis for Canada, and we work very hard to make sure that the opposition has an ability to ask those questions … has the information at their fingertips when they ask for it,” said Hajdu.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jeneroux noted that Tam has indeed shown up at the committee to testify.

“I want to highlight how disappointing it is that Bruce Aylward, a key adviser to the WHO, has at the last minute decided not to appear and did not offer to be rescheduled at a later date,” he said.

“This is unacceptable.”

Jeneroux noted several “facts” that he wanted to ask Aylward about and that he has “decided not to come and hide from any accountability.” In Aylward’s absence, he read from a statement:

“There is simply no doubt that the WHO has been slow to recommend concrete measures that has negatively affected Canada’s response to the virus.

“In fact, the WHO has gone above and beyond to congratulate and thank China for their response which has been to mislead the world on the gravity of the virus.”

Jeneroux said Taiwan has managed to “flatten the curve” of the virus but the WHO won’t acknowledge its accomplishments because it doesn’t want to anger China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province that belongs to it.

READ MORE: WHO issues guidelines for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Is Canada ready?

Canada maintains a “one China” policy that means it has no direct political relationship with Taiwan. But Canada does have a trade and cultural relationship with Taiwan.

Taiwan’s efforts to control COVID-19 are being completely disregarded by the WHO, said Jeneroux, “and by Mr. Aylward particularly.”

Jeneroux said the WHO needs to answer at the committee for questionable past statements, including saying months ago that there was no evidence of “human to human” transfer of the novel coronavirus.

“In fact, Dr. Tam used Canada’s legal obligation to the WHO as an excuse to not implement travel bans,” said Jeneroux, adding that Tam said Canada did not want to be “called out” by the WHO for doing so.

“Our government was more fearful of being called out by the WHO than protecting Canadians,” said Jeneroux.

He said that remark needs to be clarified at the committee by both the WHO and Tam.

“As the WHO continues to praise China’s approach after announcing over 8,000 deaths, Taiwan is producing four million masks a day, providing them with front-line workers and consumers for their safety,” he said.

“Why was China being listened to, and Taiwan being ignored?”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Andrew ScheerChinaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Abbotsford egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Kelowna animal rights activist speaks out amid charges in 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Amy Soranno, along with three other activists, will appear in court on Sept. 3

2020 Mission Dahlia Flower and Grape Festival opens Saturday

The event, held at Shangrila Farm in Mission, runs until Sept. 30

Inside the Mission RCMP: COMPSTAT – Sharing vital information

Part Two of a five-part series on the Mission RCMP detachment

35,000 doses of fentanyl part of huge Maple Ridge bust

Largest seizure in RCMP detachment’s history included submachine gun, body armour

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read