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Opposition MPs on the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations voted Tuesday to delve into the massive security breach at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Liberal MPs on the committee tried to curtail the parliamentary examination, introducing a motion that would not make the investigation a priority and limiting the number of meetings into the matter.

Liberal Yasir Naqvi said he was concerned the inquiry would be “all about political posturing” and attempts to “score political points” rather than getting answers about what happened at Canada’s only Level 4 infectious disease lab.

Infectious-disease scientist fired from Winnipeg laboratory surfaces in China

The Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and NDP defeated Mr. Naqvi’s motion and another one that would not have allowed MPs to summon witnesses if they refused to testify. BQ MP René Villemure reminded the Liberals that it was the government that played political games by denying Parliament access to classified documents on the matter.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong, who tabled the motion for a parliamentary investigation, said government witnesses “had obstructed, obfuscated and delayed” providing the documents covering why two infectious disease scientists were fired in January, 2021.

Mr. Chong and other opposition MPs also agreed the committee should have the power to summon witnesses who refuse to testify.

The investigation is needed because the goings-on at the National Microbiology Lab “are serious national security breaches,” he told the committee.

“It is a grave and serious matter because the government scientists clandestinely collaborated with the government and the military of the People’s Republic of China and were paid clandestinely by the government and the military of the People’s Republic of China, without the government of Canada knowing anything,” he said.

The Conservative motion calls for the appearance of nine witnesses, including Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Health Minister Mark Holland, CSIS Director David Vigneault and senior leaders at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Opposition MPs want to know how the security breach happened and what steps are being taken to make sure it cannot happen again.

Declassified documents tabled in the House of Commons in late February showed that Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng provided confidential scientific information to China and that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service found Dr. Qiu’s association with multiple talent-recruitment programs run by Chinese authorities.

Investigators for the government ultimately concluded that Dr. Qiu represented “a realistic and credible threat to Canada’s economic security” and that Mr. Cheng posed “a very serious and credible security danger to the government of Canada.”

Property records show Dr. Qiu and Mr. Cheng still co-own two houses in Winnipeg’s South Pointe neighbourhood, a wealthy suburban area surrounded by parks and interconnecting creeks, about a 30-minute drive from the city’s downtown. They also own an undeveloped property in cottage country in Gimli, Man. They are listed as co-owners as of a title search on March 6.

The two scientists were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in July, 2019, and later had their security clearances revoked. They were fired in January, 2021.

They have been under an RCMP national security investigation since May, 2019.

The Globe and Mail revealed last week that the pair are now working in China and that Dr. Qiu is collaborating with researchers from the People’s Liberation Army. The couple are now using the pseudonyms Sandra Chiu and Kaiting Cheng, conducting research at prestigious institutions in China and alongside some of that country’s most noted scientists.

At China’s University of Science and Technology, a school with close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, Sandra Chiu uses an e-mail address that includes the name “qiu” and first initial “x.”

Internet archives show that somewhere between January, 2020, and June, 2023, a one-paragraph biography of Dr. Qiu at Virologica Sinica, a scientific journal where she was on the editorial board, becomes a biography of Sandra Chiu, with no change to the wording.

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