Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion that deals with a very curious circumstance, to put it mildly, that largely started on March 31, 2019.
Before I describe what the circumstance is, it is important to give a little context around how this played out. A lot of Canadians may only hear about the National Microbiology Laboratory in passing, for example in government press releases. The National Microbiology Laboratory, or the NML, is actually a really important facility in Canada.
I grew up in Winnipeg. I started my career at the University of Manitoba, in the faculty of medicine, as well as in the intellectual property management office there. There is a lot of research that happens between the University of Manitoba and the National Microbiology Laboratory. It is very important research to Canada. A lot of the research that happened around the Ebola vaccine happened at this facility.
It is a very important resource for Canadian research. It also has something called a level 4 containment lab. That means it has the capacity for some of the world's most deadliest viruses to be safely held and researched.
What we are debating today is the fact that one of the researchers affiliated with the National Microbiology Laboratory, on March 31, 2019, coordinated a shipment of the Ebola and Henipah viruses. These are two very lethal and deadly viruses causing hemorrhagic fevers. That shipment was from the Public Health Agency of Canada to the Wuhan Institute of Virology via Winnipeg to Toronto to Beijing on a commercial Air Canada flight. That is something.
A few months later, on July 5, 2019, the researcher who did this, as well as her students, were escorted out of the lab by the Public Health Agency of Canada. This is a fairly pressing issue for Parliament to look at. What happened here?
I want to talk a little about the importance of research and how research happens. I do not want to give the impression that we do not have controls in place. Having worked in research administration in a prior life, which seems more and more distant by the day, there are usually protocols put in place whenever any sort of biological agent or material is transferred. There are actually agreements called material transfer agreements.
The reason why we need to find out what happened here is to find out whether or not the controls that we have in place in Canada are adequate or if they were followed in this situation. What happened? What was the result of it? Are our controls adequate? When we are talking about something like the Ebola virus, we would think that the public would want to know this information.
This is definitely something that Parliament should be seized with for the following reasons. Any time biological agents are transferred outside of Canada, or even within Canada, we have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that process is ethical and that it follows ethical standards. I could spend 20 minutes just talking about what that means, in terms of international agreements and Canadian law. We have to make sure, frankly, that that stuff is not going to be weaponized.
We have to make sure that anybody who is allowed to work in these facilities is vetted in the most profound way and that they are screened to make sure they do not have affiliations with organizations that may not have Canada's best interests at heart. Even on a more commercial basis, we need to make sure that when materials are transferred, the intellectual property, any sort of new products or knowledge that come out of that research, is shared appropriately, according to Canadian and international law.
We need to find out what happened here. Clearly, something happened. Ebola was transferred by a researcher who was affiliated with the National Microbiology Laboratory, and then they were escorted out of the lab six months later. Then a bunch of other weird stuff sort of happened in that period of time.
One would think we should now be debating what happened and whether we need better controls, but what we are debating today is the fact that the Liberal government will not release the documents surrounding this incident, which is very concerning. The motion before us today, which the Liberals are frankly obstructing and which they obstructed at the health committee, compels the government to give parliamentarians information on what happened so we can evaluate whether processes were followed. My suspicion is that they were not. Subsequently, we can ensure that this never happens again.
The motion before the House would compel the government to put forward documents to the public for scrutiny, not just for Parliament to scrutinize but also the media. It is being blocked every step of the way. We have tried to do this multiple times through the parliamentary committee process. It is not just these documents that the Liberals are blocking. Colleagues on the health committee with me were being filibustered by the government on something as simple as a motion to get the agenda for the health committee.
There is an article in The Globe and Mail today about the Liberal government wanting to run the clock out on Parliament. By that, I mean it is obstructing everything so that Parliament will rise at the end of June with no answers on this. I know there is a lot of speculation about the Prime Minister potentially unilaterally calling an election in September. If nothing happened and everything is okay, why are these documents being blocked on something as serious as questions around the transfer of the Ebola virus? I have never seen something like this.
I used to work directly in academic research administration. There are a lot of very serious issues and concerns. Paperwork is put in place in order to hopefully ensure that bad things do not happen. If the system fails, we need to correct that. I have to say that I absolutely support international research collaboration, but it has to be done under a framework of safety and integrity. This motion comes at a time when Canada, frankly, has a very balkanized patchwork of rules and regulations among Canadian universities, our national research facilities, corporate research facilities and international research facilities. I do not think there is any political motivation or partisanship in saying that if a problem happened with this, we need to fix it and Parliament needs to put forward ways to do it.
There are a lot of questions in the world right now about what happened at the Wuhan lab on a lot of other issues. This issue is with regard to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada and a sample of the Ebola virus. We need to know what happened, where the system failed, whether an appropriate remedy was put in place, and whether we have the potential for this to happen again. I just cannot believe that we have to spend a day of debate to force the Liberals to produce documents that are owned by the public.
The public, taxpayers, voting citizens and every person in Canada has the right to know what happened so we can make sure that our processes for research are safe and integrous. This is the Ebola virus. To be clear, we should not be transferring any material without rules in place, but this is a level 4 pathogen. This is something that there should be absolute transparency on, and it is shocking to me that we are having to force this debate in the House.
If there is nothing to hide and everything is fine, why is the Liberal government delaying and obstructing the release of these documents related to the transfer of the Ebola virus to China at every step of the way?
I hope my Liberal colleagues will vote in favour of this motion. I hope they will talk to their folks in the government and say that we need to pass this motion, and I hope we can spend time in debate afterward talking about how to strengthen this system so that Canada can participate in research internationally without these types of concerns.