The federal government wants a "robust" and ongoing investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in the House of Commons Monday ahead of an expected grilling by MPs examining Canada's relationship with China.
“Like many countries around the world, we have always been clear that we need to understand the origins of COVID-19 and we will work with our international partners to ensure there is a robust and continued investigation into the origins of this virus," Hajdu said in response to a question from Conservative MP Michael Chong.
"It is important not just for Canadians but indeed for the entire world so that we can prevent another epidemic of this kind.”
The communique that emerged from the G7 summit in Cornwall, U.K., this weekend called for another investigation by the World Health Organization into how the pandemic began.
Once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the notion that COVID-19 leaked accidentally from a Chinese lab is now under a new U.S. investigation ordered by President Joe Biden, which is also exploring whether the virus jumped from animals to humans.
The Conservatives have been pushing the Liberal government to hand over documents they argue could shed light on that investigation, involving two scientists escorted out of the high-security National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg in 2019.
Xiangguo Qiu and her biologist husband, Kending Cheng, were officially fired in January.
Qiu had earlier been responsible for a shipment of Ebola and Henipah viruses to China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, but the Public Health Agency of Canada has said those events are unrelated.
In May, Iain Stewart, the president of the agency, told a parliamentary committee that the Winnipeg facility routinely shares samples with other labs and adheres to strict protocols.
Hajdu is set to appear at the special committee on Canada-China relations Monday night alongside Stewart and Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, acting vice-president at the Winnipeg facility, where they will face questions about the issue.
Two weeks ago, a majority of MPs passed a motion in the House of Commons demanding the Trudeau government release unredacted documents related to what happened at the National Microbiology Laboratory to the special committee.
The Liberal government instead handed over the documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
"The director of the lab has been very clear that there is no connection with their departure and COVID-19," Hajdu told the House of Commons earlier this month, adding it was "irresponsible" for the Conservatives "to try and draw that link."