Committee of MPs, former judges to investigate dismissal of 2 National Microbiology Lab scientists IG News

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Members of all official parties and three former judges in the House of Commons will sit on a new ad hoc committee to investigate the controversial firing of two scientists from Canada’s top virology lab in Winnipeg.

Government House Leader Mark Holland announced the formation of the committee on Wednesday. Four MPs will have access to briefings and other documents on the matter: Iqra Khaled from the Liberals, John Williamson from the Conservatives, René Villemure from the Bloc Québécois and Heather McPherson from the NDP. All these four have alternatives of their respective parties.

Three former senior judges will join him to act as mediators, and will have a final say on what information can be made public. The judges are Ian Binney, Eleanor Dawson and Marshall Rothstein. Binney and Rothstein are former justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Where there is redacted information that the Committee believes should be made public, the panel of arbitrators … shall determine whether to release that information without compromising national security, national defense or international relations, or any other public or private How can this be disclosed more widely. Interest,” said a government news release.

A man and woman are smiling at the camera while sitting side by side on a sofa.
Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, left, and her husband Keding Cheng, right, are thrown out of the lab in July 2019. His dismissal was announced in January 2021. The RCMP were investigating the pair at the time, but gave no reason for their dismissal or investigation. (Governor General’s Innovation Awards)

The committee will investigate the case of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng. Both Qiu and Cheng were scientists working at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, which is operated by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Qiu and Cheng were kicked out of the lab in July 2019, before the PHAC announced their dismissal in January 2021.

National security experts told CBC News that the case raises concerns about Chinese espionage. The dismissals also caused political controversy, with opposition parties demanding the government release more information about why Qiu and Cheng were let go.

The laboratory is the only Level 4 facility in Canada, meaning it is equipped to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases.

The Conservatives first boycotted the all-party National Security Committee over the government’s refusal to hand over documents relating to the scientists’ dismissal.

Hollande said Wednesday that forming the new committee was difficult.

“It has been a long process to get all the parties together, to populate the members, to get the panel of arbitrators,” he said in a media scrum.

“But now we have three respected former judges who have agreed to play the role of mediator.”

A man standing in front of a flag and gesturing.
Mark Holland, leader of the government in the House of Commons, speaks during a news conference on September 20, 2022 in Ottawa. Hollande said on Wednesday that setting up the committee has been a long and difficult process. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

The announcement of participants in the process comes more than a year after the Liberals said they would press ahead with such a committee to review the documents.

The Conservatives initially rejected the proposal, preferring that the record be turned over to a regular committee of MPs.

Under a House of Commons order passed by opposition parties in 2021 – over the government’s objections – the documents will have been examined by parliamentary law clerks for potential national security issues, but committee members retain the right to release whatever material Must have chosen.