Nelson: Bio lab scandal tops Trudeau's blunders

What happened in Winnipeg, culminating during the fall of 2019, is indeed a nightmare, but one we can ill afford to sleep through any longer

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Is there anything Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s regime hasn’t messed up since taking office nine years ago?

The list of blunders is so extensive that we’ve reached the stage where a shrug is all many can manage when the latest howler comes to light. It’s a bit like Flames fans being told that with three games to play, the team is four points out of a playoff spot — having heard this so often it barely registers.

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But hockey is far from a matter of national security.

That’s at the heart of this latest debacle, one that might top all previous follies. As details finally emerge about what went on at our country’s most secretive bio lab — shortly before COVID laid temporary waste to the planet — it is enough to leave even the most cynical Canadian open-mouthed in astonishment.

However, many folks are so fed up with the Trudeau government they probably gave even this bombshell a pass, perhaps in some futile attempt to imagine it’s all part of a decade-long, bad dream. What happened in Winnipeg, culminating during the fall of 2019, is indeed a nightmare, but one we can ill afford to sleep through any longer.

The goings on at that National Microbiology Laboratory started with a series of security breaches in 2018 and, a year later, resulted in two top scientists — Xiangguo Qiu and husband Keding Cheng — being frogmarched from the building and fired over serious accusations about their loyalty to Canada and exploitation by China.

Following years of stonewalling, the government was forced to release a scathing 623-page report on the affair by the Public Health Agency of Canada, including a synopsis by our country’s security service, CSIS.

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CSIS concluded: “Ms. Qiu developed deep, co-operative relationships with a variety of People’s Republic of China (PRC) institutions and has intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China in order to benefit the PRC government, and herself, without regard for the implications to her employer or to Canada’s interests.”

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Among a host of security breaches, it was discovered the couple gave Chinese agents direct access to the Winnipeg lab, a building housing Canada’s most secret and secure pathogenic diseases, ones capable of being weaponized. Qiu also admitted to sending an ebola sample to China’s National Institute for Food and Drug Control without a transfer agreement from Canadian authorities.

CSIS also discovered Qiu secretly agreed to work for the Wuhan Virology Institute for two months each year while still part of the Winnipeg lab staff, to develop that country’s biosecurity platform for infectious disease research. (Remember Wuhan? That was the Chinese city where COVID-19 originated in late 2019. Many questions remain about the origin of that virus and whether it was simply coincidental that such a virology complex was located at the pandemic’s Ground Zero.)

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The November 2020 conclusion by the Public Health Agency of Canada, following a prolonged investigation, stated: “Doctor Qiu represents a very serious and credible danger to the government of Canada as a whole and, in particular, at facilities considered high security due to the potential for theft of dangerous materials attractive to terrorist and foreign entities that conduct espionage to infiltrate and damage the economic security of Canada.”

This being Canada, both Qiu and Cheng — who’ve now conveniently vanished — filed unfair dismissal grievances. That’s how the Liberals tried to portray the matter: a simple labour dispute not worthy of public scrutiny, as though the pair had lost their government jobs for nothing more serious than mistakenly deep-frying a steak tartare order destined for the parliamentary dining room.

As Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre declared last week, Trudeau’s government “fought tooth and nail to cover this up, including defying four parliamentary orders and taking the House of Commons’ Speaker to court.”

Heaven help our country.

You think things can’t get worse, and then they do.

Chris Nelson is a regular Herald columnist.

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