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

Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receives her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
COVID-19 vaccinations get underway in Smithers

First doses are being administered to long-term care residents and priority health care staff

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Fentanyl was among the drugs seized by New Hazelton RCMP in a big bust in early January. (File photo)
New Hazelton RCMP arrest five, seize drugs and large amount of cash

Police find suspected heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth during early January drug bust

Smithers Local Health area reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 for the second week of January. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 32 in Smithers LHA Jan. 10 – 16

Northern Health reports 35 new cases for 501 active, 44 hospitalized, 17 in critical care Wednesday

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

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

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read