Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The World Health Organization is balking at a Canadian parliamentary committee’s request for key WHO adviser Bruce Aylward to testify before MPs and explain the global body’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matt Jeneroux, Conservative health critic and one of the vice-chairs of the House of Commons health committee, said he plans to seek support from other parties to take the request to the next level. He said he will propose the committee try to compel testimony from the Canadian epidemiologist by employing a rarely used power of summons.

“We want this committee to be taken seriously. Dr. Aylward is a key figure in a lot of this and this committee has been tasked with understanding the response to COVID-19,” Mr. Jeneroux said.

Story continues below advertisement

Don Davies, NDP health critic and another member of the committee, said he would support issuing a summons.

“I’m disappointed in the WHO’s position, especially considering we are seeking information from a Canadian official,” Mr. Davies said. “Their officials should be transparent and accountable to the nations they serve.”

House of Commons committees have the power to summon a person to appear as a witness, although that power is limited to individuals on Canadian soil. That means a summons could be served on them when they arrived in Canada.

Dr. Aylward, who headed a WHO team to China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the pandemic, was scheduled to testify before MPs two weeks ago but cancelled on short notice, citing an urgent matter related to COVID-19. MPs on the Commons health committee then sent a new invitation, asking him to testify by teleconference on April 29. The committee had already warned the WHO that it would be willing to summon him.

However, Mr. Jeneroux said Sigrid Kranawetter, principal legal counsel at the World Health Organization, informed the committee that Dr. Aylward would not be appearing but that the committee could send written questions to the global body.

On Wednesday, the WHO echoed this message. Asked whether Dr. Aylward would testify, the body indicated he would not. “Over the past weeks, WHO has received requests for information from several different governments, parliamentary bodies and officials,” spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “With a view to facilitating the work of the committee, WHO has offered to consider any list of technical questions from the committee.”

Liberal MP Ron McKinnon, who chairs the Commons health committee, said it will be up to members of the committee to decide on whether to summon Dr. Aylward. He said while he is keen to hear testimony from a representative of the WHO, he will however encourage MPs to accept the WHO’s offer of making written responses to questions.

Story continues below advertisement

The WHO is facing increasing questions about its relationship with China and whether the organization properly notified and prepared the world for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The WHO has defended its conduct, noting it alerted the public in early January. But the organization has refused to denounce China for concealing information about COVID-19, even after it became clear authorities there had muzzled doctors.

The WHO’s Dr. Aylward has praised China’s response to COVID-19, even telling a media briefing in February: “If I had COVID-19, I’d want to be treated in China.”

The Conservatives’ Mr. Jeneroux would like Dr. Aylward to explain why the WHO has been shutting out Taiwan, which has outshone many countries in its fight against COVID-19, by barring it from participating in the organization even as an observer.

Mr. Jeneroux said he wants to ask about an incident last month where Dr. Aylward was being interviewed by a Hong Kong reporter and the WHO adviser declined to answer questions about Taiwan’s exclusion.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO because of the objections of China, which claims the democratic and separately ruled island as its own. That means Taiwan is excluded from emergency meetings and important global briefings for WHO members.

Canada has called for Taiwan to be granted observer status at the WHO – an urging that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland repeated Wednesday. “Canada believes Taiwan’s role as an observer in the WHO assembly meetings is in the interests of the international health community,” she told the Commons.

Story continues below advertisement

In late January, even after Chinese authorities locked down Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 first came to public attention and the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alert, the global body’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries against closing borders. “There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” he said. Some countries, including Canada, followed the advice, waiting another seven weeks to ban foreign travellers.

With files from Bill Curry in Ottawa

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies