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Infectious disease scientists Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng collaborated with researchers in China. The couple were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in July, 2019, and later had their security clearances revoked. They were fired in January, 2021 and their whereabouts are unknown.Handout cleared

Liberal and NDP MPs joined forces Monday to block a parliamentary investigation into the massive security breach at Canada’s high-security infectious-disease laboratory in Winnipeg, one that a probe found constituted a credible threat to Canada.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong moved a motion to investigate how Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, were able to pass confidential information to China even after security concerns were raised about the two scientists’ activities.

“The People’s Republic of China and its entities infiltrated Canada’s top microbiology lab, a national-security breach representing a very serious and credible threat to Canada,” Mr. Chong said, noting the Liberal government had fought for years to stop the opposition parties from finding out why the two scientists were fired and whether there were serious security breaches at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Documents tabled in the House of Commons late last week revealed that the two infectious-disease scientists provided confidential scientific information to China and were fired after a probe found they engaged in clandestine meetings with Chinese officials. Dr. Qiu posed “a realistic and credible threat to Canada’s economic security,” investigators said.

The couple were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in July, 2019, and later had their security clearances revoked. They were fired in January, 2021. Their whereabouts are not known.

“The government defied four orders of the House of Commons and its committee for these documents,” Mr. Chong told the House of Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics. “After three long years, we finally have gotten access to the documents, and we need to continue this examination in order to hold the government accountable.”

But Liberal Iqra Khalid moved an immediate motion to adjourn the committee hearings, effectively killing the proposed parliamentary investigation by the committee. She was supported by her Liberal colleagues and NDP MP Matthew Green.

Ms. Khalid accused the Conservatives of playing “political games,” saying the government had taken steps years ago to beef up security at the Winnipeg facility. “It is not urgent and it is not within the mandate of this ethics committee.”

Mr. Green later said that the NDP is not against a parliamentary inquiry into the security breaches.

“New Democrats believe the study on the security breach at Canada’s high security infectious disease laboratory in Winnipeg should happen at the Canada-China Committee, that’s the appropriate committee to investigate this mess,” he said in a statement. “New Democrats will continue the necessary work for accountability and transparency in this file.”

Conservative MP Michael Cooper said the access to information, privacy and ethics committee was the proper venue for the study because it would have looked at efforts by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to over-classify material unnecessarily as national security. A special committee of MPs tasked with evaluating censored records found the government was invoking national security to hide most of the information redacted from PHAC documents to shield the organization from embarrassment.

Mr. Cooper doubted the NDP is serious about voting with the Tories and Bloc Québécois to allow the Canada-China committee to investigate the matter, saying in an interview that “time and time again, the NDP does the bidding of Justin Trudeau.”

He told the committee that a parliamentary inquiry was needed because MPs have faced years of “cover-up and obstruction” and it was obvious that there was a “massive breakdown” of intelligence within the government.

“The buck stops with the Prime Minister. When did the Prime Minister know about this massive national-security breach? Did he learn about it in 2019 or did he learn about it in January, 2021, or some time in between?”

Mr. Chong’s motion would have called top officials at PHAC, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director David Vigneault, Health Minister Mark Holland, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Natalie Drouin, national security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A CSIS analysis tabled last week said Dr. Qiu “developed deep, co-operative relationships with a variety of People’s Republic of China institutions and has intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China to benefit the PRC, and herself, without regard for the implications to her employer or to Canada’s interest.”

According to the documents, CSIS also concluded her husband, Mr. Cheng, represented a “very serious and credible security danger to the Government of Canada.”

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa has denied any wrongdoing in its dealings with Dr. Qiu and her husband: “The allegation that China tried to steal the secrets of Canada is entirely groundless. We firmly oppose this.”

Xiangguo Qiu, one of two scientists fired from Canada’s infectious disease laboratory in Winnipeg, talks about her Ebola research in a 2018 video celebrating innovators. Documents show Dr. Qiu and another scientist, Keding Cheng, engaged in clandestine meetings with Chinese officials and a probe concluded she posed 'a realistic and credible threat to Canada’s economic security.'

The Globe and Mail

Among the questions Conservative and Bloc MPs want answered is why the government did not catch the clandestine activities of Dr. Qiu before 2018, when it was discovered she had improperly registered a patent that was produced in China, and why she had met clandestinely with Chinese government and military officials in 2017 and early 2018.

They also want to know why it took 10 months for the government to secure the Winnipeg lab after it had been discovered that the patent had been improperly registered in China and violated PHAC policy.

“The patent violation was discovered in September, 2018, and yet it took 10 months to July 5, 2019 for the government to secure the lab,” Mr. Chong said. Even after her computer was seized by government and she was denied approval for a trip to China, Dr. Qiu was still allowed to ship two lethal viruses, including Ebola, on March, 2019, from the lab to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“Among those Dr. Qiu collaborated with was none other than Beijing’s foremost expert on bio-defence and bio-terrorism and Dr. Qiu had been paid for her travels to Beijing, all apparently unknown to PHAC,” Mr. Cooper said.

Dr. Qiu and her husband had an undisclosed bank account in China’s Commercial Bank, the documents tabled in the Commons reveal, and she had conducted research connected to the People’s Liberation Army. Canada’s spy agency said it found an unfinalized work agreement for a talent program with Hebei Medical University that stipulated she would be provided with funding worth the equivalent of $1.2-million Canadian between 2018 and 2022.

The agency said it found an application from her to the program that said she would work for China’s Wuhan Virology Institute for at least two months every year.

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