Manitoba MPs call National lab leaks appalling, ‘national embarrassment’

Two scientists were fired from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg due to security threats around relationship to China, and now both NDP and Conservative MPs are calling for accountability. Morgan Modjeski reports.

“We don’t know exactly what materials, technology, viruses, and other biological things that are in that lab that were actually turned over to the PRC and to the People’s Liberation Army.” 

Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman MP James Bezan with the Conservative Party of Canada spoke in Ottawa about the release of a report, the opposition saying the government must be held accountable. 

The documents, tabled yesterday in Ottawa, detailed how the two scientists Keding Cheng and Xiangguo QIU still had strong ties and loyalty to the Peoples Republic of China while they worked at the National Microbiology Laboratory. 

The documents detail how the Canadian Security Intelligence Service felt there was a “very real potential” Cheng could relay sensitive information to”foreign threat actors and used for nefarious purposes” with QIU developing “deep and co-operative relationships with a variety of People Republic of China Institutions” and has intentionally “transferred scientific knowledge to benefit China and herself. The scientists were escorted from the lab in 2019 and fired in 2021.

RELATED: Health agency emphasizes tighter research security after firing of two scientists

“It’s deeply sad and disturbing.” 

Minister of Health Mark Holland says the government is taking the matter seriously and said government has essentially closed the door on further collaboration with infectious disease researchers at the lab and China. 

“The short answer is yes. The environment has changed dramatically and I think in 2019, there was still an enormous amount of collaboration that was occurring, I wouldn’t say there’s no collboration, but I’d say the nature of that collaboration is totally different,” said Holland. 

The anger, however, is palpable for MPs representing the province. 

“I am totally appalled that the Liberal Government failed to safeguard highly classified information within the national virology lab.”

Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Leah Gazan, says she’s shocked the current government would allow this to happen and then, try to conceal it. 

“Not only did the liberal government fail to protect and secure intellectual property, they made it worse by attempting to redact some of the most damning parts of the document to conceal the fact that they failed to keep institutions safe from foreign interference,” said Gazan.

“This is not going to make things any better between the two countries.” 

University of Manitoba assistant professor Bryan Peeler says the recent revelations will be an added weight to the two countries’ already strained relationship. 

“It’s going to make the relations between Canada and China much harder,” said Peeler. 

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