Yes, please. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, I want to take my time to highlight how disappointing it is that Bruce Aylward, a Canadian adviser to the WHO, has at the last minute decided not to appear and has not offered to be rescheduled at a later date. This is unacceptable.
Since December, the WHO has been updating citizens around the globe on the impact of COVID-19. First, Dr. Tam did make herself available to take questions, and now the WHO is pulling out. This committee has the explicit mandate to “meet for the sole purpose of receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
I want to take this time to point out some facts that I was hoping Mr. Aylward would be able to address, but seeing that he has decided not to come and to hide from any accountability, I will simply read this into the record.
There is absolutely no doubt that the WHO has been slow to recommend concrete measures, which has negatively affected Canada's response to the virus. In fact, the WHO has gone above and beyond to congratulate and thank China for its response, which has been to mislead the world on the gravity of the virus. Taiwan, a country that effectively flattened the curve and contained the virus by proactively implementing enhanced border screening measures before China even admitted to having a new disease, is being completely ignored and disregarded by the WHO and Mr. Aylward particularly.
I want to highlight some of the evidence that proves the need to have the WHO attend as witnesses and answer questions, because the WHO's response has affected Canada's response.
First, the WHO stated that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. That statement was used to develop Canada's response in January. Fewer than 10 days later, the WHO announced that the virus was in fact spreading through humans, and yet it still kept the risk assessment for the world as moderate. In fact, Dr. Tam used Canada's legal obligation to the WHO as an excuse not to implement travel bans. She said that due to the fact that the WHO was not recommending travel bans, we could not do so for fear of being called out. Our government was more fearful of being called out by the WHO than protecting Canadians. This deserves clarification from both the WHO and Dr. Tam.
As the WHO continues to praise China's approach after announcing over 8,000 deaths, Taiwan is producing four million masks a day and providing them to front-line workers and consumers for their safety. Again, I remind Canadians that the WHO refuses to include or acknowledge Taiwan's approach. Why was China being listened to and Taiwan being ignored?
In late February, as cases continued to mount and the WHO continued to discourage travel restrictions, and as our government continued to listen only to the WHO, a group of Chinese Canadian doctors urged mandatory quarantine of Chinese travellers in order to contain the virus and not overwhelm Canada's health system. The government refused to listen and instead continued to fear being called out by the WHO.
It took until March 11 for the WHO to declare a global pandemic. Numerous countries across the world were already seeing a significant rise in cases and the death rate was growing. There was no doubt that the virus didn't respect borders, that it was spreading fast and that there was no cure.
In March, after Canadians were being told to stay home, after day cares and schools were shutting down across the country, and after millions of people started losing their jobs, the government admitted that it was now closing borders and implementing mandatory self-quarantine of travellers. Our government started going against the advice of the WHO, even though Dr. Tam had earlier suggested our legal duties to the WHO.
However, this is about Mr. Aylward and the WHO's refusal to attend our committee today. I'm sure there will be opportunity in the future and at the right time to investigate why this decision was suddenly made, but that's for another time. There is no doubt there are mounting questions about including Taiwan in the WHO, a subject that Mr. Aylward clearly does not want to discuss. There is no doubt there are mounting questions about the continued praise of China as evidence grows regarding China's transparency. There is no doubt there are mounting questions about the WHO's refusal to recommend enhanced border measures and the use of masks. There is no doubt there are mounting questions about what the WHO will recommend in the future. For example, just a few weeks ago, it mentioned the removal of people and families from their homes and quarantining them as a possible scenario.
That is why I strongly urge you and the clerk to ensure that Mr. Aylward make himself available and that, as a Canadian adviser to the WHO and a senior adviser to the director general of the WHO, he appear before our committee. We are studying the impacts of COVID-19 on Canada and the government's approach, and he should have answers to Canadians' questions. We have serious questions about the WHO's data and who is really making these decisions that are impacting Canadians. This committee is an opportunity to ask questions that are on the minds of Canadians, and we need to hear from relevant witnesses in order to do just that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will cede the rest of my time.