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

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

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

The Nelson Police Department used a nail belt to stop a vehicle carrying large amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine on the weekend. Photo: File photo
Nelson police seize drugs, make arrests, investigate slashed tires

Anyone with information on these events is asked to call 250-354-3919

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Cottonwood Lake fundraiser reaches goal

The community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility’s COVID-10 outbreak has been declared over by Interior Health. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID outbreak at Vernon’s Noric House declared over

10 deaths were linked to the outbreak at long-term care facility

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Gas prices jumped in Golden to 131.9c this week, a trend that's supposed to continue into the summer. (Claire Palmer/Golden Star)
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Clovechok concerned as gas prices continue to rise

Fuel prices are supposed to skyrocket this summer as British Columbians await BCUC analysis

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read