Canadians need to be aware of the WHO Pandemic Treaty

It is time for Canadians to pay attention to what our government officials are signing onto at the WHO treaty negotiations through the coming weeks. Pictured: Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Photo Credit: Gordon Brown/X. 

Canadians can be excused for not knowing about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Pandemic Treaty. Seldom is it mentioned by politicians, government officials or legacy media – and when the Pandemic Treaty is mentioned, it is often to warn Canadians not to heed any of the criticisms as “they are rooted in conspiracy theories.” However, the treaty process unfolding in Geneva in the coming weeks could have specific implications on the way Canadian health officials, the medical community, and governments respond to the next global health crisis. It is a significant international treaty that Canada intends to sign. Canadians need to be aware. 

As being reported in foreign news (and also found in independent Canadian news sources), there are rumblings about the possible missed opportunity if the international community does not sign onto an agreement that would guide all countries in a coordinated response to the next global pandemic. Next Monday, April 29, the WHO will be hosting a final round of treaty negotiations to prepare a document for signatures at the upcoming May 27 WHO meetings. These negotiations will focus on finalizing the wording of a 110 page draft treaty document that grants new powers to the WHO during a recognized pandemic.   

This past week the WHO Ambassador, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, released a statement of “100+ pantheon of global leaders” pressing all countries to rise to the challenge of finalizing the treaty process. Brown’s “urgent appeal” was supported by more than 80 ministers and international church organizations that warned treaty negotiators that reaching a global agreement was a moral obligation. 

The WHO website featured these appeals in a news release and highlighted the key benefits of an agreement: “A pandemic accord would deliver vast and universally shared benefits, including greater capacity to detect new and dangerous pathogens, access to information about pathogens detected elsewhere in the world, and timely and equitable delivery of tests, treatments, vaccines, and other lifesaving tools.”

Next week is critical to the success of the negotiations that began more than two years ago. In fall 2021, the WHO called together its 194 member countries to assess how the COVID-19 crisis had been managed. From the perspective of the WHO health officials and technocrats, the two major failings of the global response to COVID-19 was that the response to the crisis was too slow, and there were too few vaccines produced that were not efficiently or equitably distributed. With the mission to ensure that these failures would “never happen again”, the WHO initiated a two-track process for its 194 member countries to 1) establish the terms and details of a new pandemic treaty and 2) amend its existing international health regulations that would better manage a crisis event. 

From that initial meeting, a long and winding negotiation process has taken place that has advanced both the creation of a treaty document and the rewriting of more than 300 regulations in the International Health Regulations (IHR) document that provides the treaty’s authority, terms and conditions. The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has championed these efforts with words of encouragement for “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” More recently he has spurred on negotiators with warnings that the treaty cannot be “sabotaged” as a result of “a torrent of fake news, lies, and conspiracy theories.” In February, Tedros went as far as stating at an international forum: “As things stand, the world remains unprepared for the next Disease X, and the next pandemic.”

With the upcoming negotiations the central concern is whether the Pandemic Treaty and its regulations are “guidelines” or whether they are “legally binding.”  The critics’ contention is that the treaty and regulations establish the WHO as the single authority to direct the global response during a pandemic crisis, eclipsing national health agencies and encroaching on member countries’ sovereignty. The latest IHR draft document dated March 13, 2024, describes a treaty that is compulsory and, in more than 160 amendments to the regulations, the phrase “the Parties shall” has been struck and replaced with the words “the Parties commit to.” 

The edits to the IHR draft document considerably strengthens the WHO’s authority at a time of a pandemic.  Consider the possible outcomes of these amendments: The WHO Director-General is empowered to independently declare health emergencies; the WHO is to assume responsibility when it identifies “potential” rather than actual health emergencies; the WHO Director-General is granted control over the production and allocation of medication during a pandemic; the WHO will have the authority to override health measure decisions made by individual countries; the WHO will establish extensive surveillance processes to regularly review and verify compliance; the WHO can censor what it considers misinformation and disinformation; and the WHO is permitted to share countries’ data without consent.

Again, there are multiple IHR recommendations that are changed from “non-binding” to “mandatory” instructions for its member countries, in essence transforming the advisor nature of the IHR to that of dictum.

On this last point, there is a growing opposition with legislators and citizen groups in the European Union, Australia, Britain, and the U.S. who claim the treaty and regulations are an authoritative overreach and that by signing the treaty, countries will cede power to the global health organization. Many critics suggest the WHO is operating in a shroud of secrecy because of issues with national sovereignty and individual rights. Tony Perkins, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, complains that getting details on the negotiations is “like trying to nail jello to the wall… [the latest draft document] continues to change with every meeting, every approach, and so we’re doing our best to analyze what the WHO is putting forward.”

Frank Gaffney, chairman of the U.S. Center for Security Policy echoes Perkins’ contention: “The reason that nobody is being told what’s going on here is because it can’t withstand the light of day. If you actually went to the American people and proposed that we turn over their personal medical health and freedom to this body that screwed it up recently, they wouldn’t want any part of it.”

Throughout the past year, the more public scrutiny and debate of the Pandemic Treaty the greater number of concerns expressed. In fact in the U.S. there are now three American state legislatures that have passed laws ensuring that their state authority for health is not superseded by the WHO agreements. The states of Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee all have restricted the WHO’s reach in one way or another. Louisiana went as far in its law to state that “the World Health Organization, United Nations, and the World Economic Forum shall have no jurisdiction or power within the state of Louisiana.” Tennessee representatives are working on legislation that will provide citizens the ability to “nullify” mandates that conflict with their constitutional rights. Other state legislatures are debating similar measures. 

In contrast, there has been little parliamentary debate or public discussion in Canada and government officials have provided no details on their involvement with the WHO treaty negotiations. Furthermore, news of Canadians’ criticism of the WHO and Canada’s participation in the treaty negotiations seems to be suppressed in mainstream media. Case in point is the public rallies in early March in 11 cities across the county that went unreported in the legacy media. 

Linda Thompson, the organizer of a Whitehorse demonstration stated in an Epoch Times interview: “Personally, I’m worried that if we don’t stand against the WHO treaty, they will take control and we will be losing our freedom, our bodily autonomy… And I’m worried that if I do stand against the WHO treaty, that my own government will try to take those things from me anyway. We’ve got a huge uphill battle, but if we don’t rise to the fight, [we’ve] lost already.”

Conservative Member of Parliament Leslyn Lewis has been one of the few MPs who have been vocal in raising concerns about the implications the treaty and regulations will have for the country’s health authorities as well as parliamentarians. She has closely followed the WHO’s two-track negotiation process over the years. Her observation offered in a recent blog article is that the amendments as written in current IHR draft document “change the role of the WHO from an advisory body that provides guidance to member states like Canada, to a decision-making authority setting mandatory responses to which nations like Canada must adhere.”   

Hence Lewis’s cautionary note: “There has never been a more vital time for Canadians to be aware of what is happening at the WHO.” Indeed. It is time for Canadians to pay attention to what our government officials are signing onto at the WHO treaty negotiations through the coming weeks.


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