Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Canada remains “open” to consideration of the actions of the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes after several prominent political leaders, including US President Donald Trump, subjected the WHO to increased scrutiny for its response to the epidemic. A key element of the criticism of the organization is the confidence that WHO has placed in the first data from China – data that several reports now show may have been faked.
In a Tuesday episode of CTV Power Play, host Evan Solomon asked Hajdu about Canada’s dependence on WHO data and whether Canada would support a possible review.
“We remain open to examining the actions of the World Health Organization,” said Hajdu in response, noting that she recognizes the “value” of the organization itself.
“We need to make sure … that we criticize the institutions that serve us internationally and that we seek ways to move forward together and improve our ability to prevent such pandemics,” she added later.
Hajdu noted that Minister of International Development Karina Gould had a conversation with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during which Tedros said the organization itself would support a review.
“I know that WHO itself wants a post-pandemic review,” said Hajdu.
“Minister Gould spoke with Dr. Tedros the other day, [and] agreed that it would be critically important to be able to review the World Health Organization’s response to China’s emerging disease and its advice to international communities and countries like ours. We therefore look forward to this work. “
Calls for review come amid doubts around the world over the accuracy of China’s COVID-19 data. Bloomberg News reported on April 1 that the American intelligence community had warned its administration in a classified report that China had “concealed the extent of the coronavirus epidemic in its country”.
China was reporting its figures to the WHO, raising concerns about the accuracy of the organization’s figures.
Security and intelligence expert Wesley Wark told CTV National News on April 13 that the WHO really had no other way to get rapid information about the epidemic.
“When we first started getting information from China about the Wuhan epidemic, we were entirely dependent on an open source flow of reports, essentially, and these reports came from state-controlled Chinese authorities through the World Health Organization (WHO), “said Wark.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer also criticized WHO’s dependence on Chinese data, raising the issue at a press conference two weeks ago.
“We have very serious concerns, many concerns have been expressed about the accuracy of the World Health Organization data, the influence of China on the World Health Organization,” said Scheer.
However, speaking on the issue the same day, Canadian government officials defended the organization’s record.
“I think it is important to realize that I think WHO is not an autonomous organization without the multiple sources of research that feed it,” said Hajdu at the time.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who sits on one of the WHO expert committees, echoed Hajdu’s argument.
“I think WHO is made up of all of its member states, including Canada, but it draws from the global community of scientists, researchers and epidemiologists,” said Tam.
While Hajdu’s comments on CTV Power Play on Tuesday indicated a change in tone, she has always maintained her faith in the value of such an organization.
“We first recognize the value of an organization like the World Health Organization in providing an international response to public health problems and new outbreaks of new diseases,” said Hajdu.
“If we do not work together, we will never be free from this disease and we risk even more serious epidemics in the future. “