Monday, December 27, 2021

PHAC president given until Friday to explain why two scientists let go

....lest we forget.this and what has happened since! Just Amazing!

PHAC president given until Friday to explain why two scientists let go


Documents withheld in case related to espionage, biological warfare

Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, was under fire from opposition MPs Monday, after repeatedly refusing to explain why PHAC terminated the employment of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, in January .

The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada has been given until the end of the week to explain why two Canadian government scientists were let go 18 months after being escorted from Canada's only Level 4 laboratory.

Iain Stewart came under fire Monday from opposition MPs after he repeatedly refused to explain why PHAC terminated the employment of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, in January.

Stewart told the special committee on Canada-China relations that he could not provide details due to privacy issues and "security with respect to the investigation" still being conducted by the RCMP.

go to 17 min into clip..

He would say only that PHAC conducted its own investigation, that it is now completed and the pair are no longer employed by the agency.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss it further," Stewart said repeatedly.

The pair were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in July 2019 over what was described as a possible policy breach and administrative matter.

The Winnipeg lab is Canada's highest-security laboratory, designed to deal safely with deadly contagious germs such as Ebola.

PHAC has said their escorted exit had nothing to do with the fact that four months earlier, Qiu had been responsible for a shipment of Ebola and Henipah viruses to China's Wuhan Institute of Virology.

But opposition MPs repeatedly tried to link the two events, and to further link it to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which first surfaced in China's Wuhan province.

Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, head of the National Microbiology Laboratory, told the committee that Canada has never transferred any coronaviruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis asked if there has ever been a case in which a Canadian lab fired a scientist over security breaches or the improper transfer of viruses.

He erupted when Stewart replied that he was "not able to answer the question as structured."

The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg is the only Level 4 lab in Canada, capable of dealing with the world's deadliest pathogens. 

"I'm glad you have a bloody senior office in this country where you're supposed to account to parliamentarians and the Canadian people. Now answer the damned question," Genuis said.

"This is such an utter disgrace."

Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos interrupted Genuis' questioning on a point of order, chiding him for badgering the witness and breaching decorum.

close friend of Trudeau..

But at that point committee chair Liberal Geoff Regan, briefly lost his Internet connection to the virtual meeting so Genuis, as vice-chair, took over. He dismissed Fragiskatos' point of order and similarly denied another Liberal MP's suggestion that the meeting be suspended briefly until the technical issues could be worked out.

Genuis eventually turned over the chair to another MP after New Democrat Jack Harris said it was inappropriate for him to act as chair while continuing his questioning and dealing with points of order about his own conduct.

Stewart later told the committee he was sorry his refusal to provide details was "causing stress and unhappiness. That's the legal advice I was provided in preparation for this session."

Bloc Quebecois MP Stephane Bergeron warned Stewart he could be found in contempt of Parliament if he continued to refuse to provide details. If the details are too sensitive to be revealed publicly, Bergeron suggested that they could be provided in confidence to committee members instead.

Stewart said he would consult with legal counsel about that alternative.

Conservative MP John Williamson suggested there's another reason for Stewart's refusal to answer questions about the matter "and that is just bureaucratic butt-covering, incompetence, malfeasance in the department."

The committee eventually agreed to a Genuis motion calling on Stewart to explain to members, in confidence if he wishes, by Friday at 2 p.m. why the two scientists were fired.   

Chinese Scientist Who Shipped Deadly Pathogens to Wuhan Held 2 Patents

Documents withheld in case possibly related to espionage, biological warfare

President of the Public Health Agency of Canada Iain Stewart, right, approaches the bar in the House of Commons to be admonished by the Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 21, 2021.

“The high-profile scientist who was fired from Canada’s top infectious disease lab collaborated with Chinese government scientists on inventions registered in Beijing, but closely related to her federal job,” reports National Post reporter Tom Blackwell.

Xiangguo Qiu was “a long-time federal civil servant when the patents were registered in 2017 and 2019 for innovations related to the Ebola and Marburg viruses, key focuses of her work at Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML),” according to Blackwell’s article. Qiu shipped a load of the deadly pathogens from the NML to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a likely source of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Canadian government employees cannot file a patent outside the country without permission from the health minister. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) refused to disclose whether Qiu had obtained such permission and whether the PHAC was even aware of the patents. The whereabouts of Qui and her husband Keding Cheng are unknown and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will not disclose if they know where they are.

As CTV News reports, PHAC President Iain Stewart “refused to provide further paperwork containing more details related to why scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, were removed from [NML] in July 2019 and then later fired by the agency.”

Canadian officials called it a policy breach but others see a case of espionage related to biological warfare. The “main culprit” behind the breach is Qiu, according to “China and Viruses: The Case of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu,” a January 2020 paper from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA).

According to the paper, the “outstanding Chinese scientist” came to Canada for graduate studies in 1996 and until recently headed the Special Pathogens program at the NML. Since 2006, Dr. Qiu has been “studying powerful viruses—Ebola most of all—at the NML.” The viruses that were “surreptitiously shipped from the NML to China” include Machupo, Junin, Rift Valley Fever, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, and Hendra.

“China and Viruses” author Dr. Dany Shoham, a microbiologist and expert in biological and chemical warfare, says Dr.Qiu “maintains a close bond with China and visits frequently, and many Chinese students from a notable range of Chinese scientific facilities have joined her at the NML over the past decade.” Of those facilities, four are believed to be involved in Chinese biological weapons development: the Institute of Military Veterinary, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Changchun; Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Chengdu Military Region; Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hubei; and the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.

One of the graduate students Qiu and Cheng brought to the NML, Radio Canada reports, was Feihu Yan, from the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences. PHAC spokesperson Eric Morrissette declined to answer questions about Yan’s work at the sensitive Winnipeg lab.

Security expert Christian Leuprecht of Canada’s Royal Military College and Queen’s University told Radio Canada that “China has a very active, very aggressive and extremely dangerous bioweapons program. So all the research that’s being generated here could easily be reappropriated by the Chinese authorities to advance rather nefarious causes.” And “It appears that what you might well call Chinese agents infiltrated one of the highest prized national security elements when it comes to biosecurity and biodefence.”

Qui and Cheng were last seen publicly in February 2020. They have been absent from their Canadian properties, reportedly worth nearly $2 million. According to former co-workers, Dr. Qiu has bragged about owning a mansion in China. If the RCMP has any clue where Qiu and Cheng might be, they aren’t saying, and on all fronts, Canadian officials are withholding crucial documents.

Dr. Qui holding Chinese patents “should be a cautionary tale,” University of Windsor professor Myra Tawfik, a specialist in intellectual property, told The National Post. On the prospect of espionage related to biological warfare, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu claimed, “We will never put Canadians’ national security at risk.” If Canadians thought their government had already done so it would hard to blame them.

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