Will Canada sign the WHO Pandemic Treaty next week?

Mere days before the Canadian delegation leaves for Geneva, there has been no official word on the government’s position and its intention with respect to signing the treaty. Pictured: Health Minister Mark Holland. Photo Credit: Mark Holland/X. 

Beginning Monday the international community gathers in Geneva, Switzerland at the 77th World Health Assembly, where the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) are to ratify new health regulations and sign a Pandemic Treaty (a.k.a. Pandemic Accord). Canada is set to sign this treaty even though the details of the final draft document are not public.  

To date, there has been no parliamentary review or discussion of Canada’s position vis-à-vis the terms and conditions established in this international pandemic treaty. Government officials responsible for Canadian negotiations at the WHO have provided no details on their involvement in the process and any commitment to signing the treaty. 

It is from reports in foreign media that Canadians have learned that the negotiations on the WHO Pandemic Treaty and its accompanying regulations have been onerous and rocky. The WHO health officials and technocrats have been working with health and international affairs officials from 194 member countries for over two-and-a-half years and, as of last Friday, had yet to arrive at a consensus. A key point of contention is that WHO recommendations during a time of a global pandemic emergency have evolved from “non-binding” to “mandatory” directives for its member countries. The crux of the matter is one of national sovereignty. 

We are left to speculate whether the member countries have adequately addressed this particular point because through the past month there has been a seeming cone of silence on all treaty talks. However, we do know there has been vocal and growing criticisms of the treaty negotiations from officials and elected representatives in the United Kingdom, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Slovakia, as well as with multiple state jurisdictions in the United States. Both the U.K. and Slovakia have signaled publicly that they will not sign the treaty document. 

Still, senior WHO officials are indicating they are “cautiously optimistic” that they will have a final agreement tabled for members’ signatures at the assembly next week, according to Health Policy Watch, a Swiss news agency located in Geneva. Mike Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director of Emergencies, stated officials may force the issue and present “a text that’s not completely agreed with a few issues to be resolved, which could be resolved during the Assembly itself, when ministers are here… And there are other options at the disposal of the World Health Assembly, such as to suspend the Assembly and to have a special assembly [to decide on any outstanding issues].” 

Canadians remain in the dark on all issues surrounding this Pandemic Treaty. Where are the details on the “final draft” of the WHO documents? Should Canadian Members of Parliament not have a parliamentary debate to review the country’s obligations in this international agreement? Are Canadians simply to accept that an unseen treaty document will be signed by the government next week? 

As previously reported in the Niagara Independent, Dr. Leslyn Lewis, a Conservative MP from Haldimand-Norfolk, has been one of the few Canadian elected representatives who have been vocal in raising red flags about the treaty and its implications for Canadians. As she articulated in one of her latest blog posts, Lewis is most concerned that the treaty and its regulations “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.”   

Lewis explains the significance of next week’s WHO meetings for Canadians. 

“Canada must be careful to not sign anything that could give away our sovereignty on health care, even if there is tremendous international pressure to do so for the sake of pandemic preparedness. It also does not make sense for this government to sign onto a legally binding treaty governing future pandemic response when Canada still has not had a national inquiry into our pandemic policies and outcomes. In essence, we can’t prepare for the future when we haven’t learned the lessons from the past.

Furthermore, if the government fails to be transparent with Canadians as it ratifies a far-reaching expansion to WHO jurisdiction and powers, it will undermine the democratic rights of Canadians to determine their own governance. While there has been some stakeholder consultation to date, there has been very little public awareness and engagement regarding this unprecedented treaty, and no parliamentary scrutiny.”

Lewis has also been transparent and forthright in describing her “core issue” with the WHO Pandemic Treaty. 

         “This treaty will define a pandemic, which will then determine when the treaty’s rules kick into gear, which will trigger a global state of emergency, which will compel signatory nations, including Canada, to do likewise, putting into motion a domino of compliance measures that countries will be expected to keep. The treaty will be legally binding, meaning it will become a violation of international law should any nation choose to go against the WHO’s directives. While the WHO states that it will respect national sovereignty, the reality is that this treaty will legally compel action based on decisions that are made by unelected WHO technocrats when a public health emergency of international concern is declared.” 

Elsewhere she describes the potential outcome of such authoritarian power being divested to the WHO: “…the treaty could give the WHO the legal ability to direct Canada’s future pandemic response, including mandating any range of measures from lockdowns to social distancing to specific vaccines approved for distribution within Canada… This means that if such a treaty is ratified, the WHO becomes the ultimate authority over not only what gets declared a pandemic but also how countries need to respond to the pandemic.”

The outspoken MP has taken up these points with government officials and the federal health minister Mark Holland, but to no avail. In a recent Epoch Times news article, a Health Canada spokesperson stated the government would not comment on the ongoing WHO negotiations and that Canada has “actively participated in the development of the Pandemic Agreement, recognizing the necessity of a robust global health security architecture.” Holland’s office refused to add anything beyond this official’s statement. 

In a letter to health minister Holland dated May 10th, Lewis raises another pertinent objection to Canada signing onto an international treaty that is yet-to-be-made public. The WHO’s own articles require that any document that would be presented at a World Health Assembly be made public to member countries at least four months before consideration at the forum. Given this requirement, Lewis argues that delegates at the assembly would be “acting outside the scope of their authority to even consider any of the tabled International Health Regulations amendments.”

Lewis writes: “This is an extremely serious matter of national concern because there are over 300 proposals for amendments made by various member states, some of which would substantially increase the WHO’s health emergency powers. When combined with the legal prerogative of the new treaty or accord, Canadian healthcare sovereignty would essentially yield to the WHO during a global public health emergency.”

Lewis’ letter has gone unanswered.

So, mere days before the Canadian delegation leaves for Geneva, there has been no official word on the government’s position and its intention with respect to signing the treaty. It’s equally troubling that there has been no mention of the WHO and the Pandemic Treaty in mainstream, government-subsidized media.


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